By Tristan Harris Wednesday 04 September 2013 Updated: 04/09 16:55
THE LEADER of Bromsgrove Labour Group has lambasted the district council over plans to close the Customer Service Centre (CSC) on Saturdays from January.
The proposals, which are being heard by the council's cabinet this evening (Wednesday), have been put forward because, the authority says, of low demand at the weekend.
According to the council's figures, during 2012 and 2013, only 62 people, on average, used the CSC on a Saturday, compared with 465 on a weekday.
But Coun Luke Mallett questioned how well the weekend hours had been advertised and asked if the council had consulted with service users.
"People would naturally assume that the service was available from Monday to Friday and many may not know the centre is open on Saturdays.
"The thing to do would be to promote the Saturday opening hours to let people know the service is available.
"This is yet another example of the council cutting services whilst claiming to be offering an improved service to local people."
He said those residents who worked during the week and could not get to the Customer Service Centre between 9am to 5pm from Monday to Friday would be the ones to lose out.
"How can cutting the service for those people be beneficial to them?
"We run our councillor surgeries on a Saturday - they are well publicised and we get a lot of people coming along."
The council said instead of Saturday opening the resources would be used to have more expert officers available to answer customer queries from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
A spokesperson told The Standard: "It was very well publicised initially and it was very well used but the amount of users on a Saturday has dropped off."
When asked about consulting users, she said: "The figures speak for themselves."
And she added customers who came in on a Saturday would be signposted to other methods they could use from January in order to get the answers they needed.
Coun Mark Bullivant, whose portfolio covers customer services, said: “We are transforming our services in a bid to save money and to meet our customers’ needs.
“As part of this we have seen a shift towards experts in key frontline service dealing with customers directly, by phone or face to face meaning we can resolve their problems at the point of contact.
"We already encourage customers needing help with benefits or Council Tax to contact us during the week when an expert is available and as most payments are made by telephone, our 24/7 payment line could be used.
"By realigning our resources we are ensuring our customers get their enquiry dealt with in the best possible way and get the information they need, rather than being passed from pillar to post.
“While we appreciate the changes may inconvenience a few people, they will be given alternative ways of doing their business with us.”
If approved by cabinet, the plans would be put forward before the full council on September 25.
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