By Tristan Harris Wednesday 04 September 2013 Updated: 05/09 10:54
BROMSGROVE District Council's cabinet has given the go ahead to controversial plans to close the Customer Service Centre (CSC) on School Drive on Saturdays from January.
The decision was taken by the group on Wednesday (September 4) and will now go before full council on September 25.
The council said it would close on Saturdays because figures showed there was a low demand for the service at weekend.
According to the authority's figures, during 2012 and 2013, only 62 people, on average, used the CSC on a Saturdays, compared with 465 on a weekday.
But Labour Group leader Coun Luke Mallett lambasted the move and questioned how well the weekend hours had been advertised, asking the council if it had properly consulted with service users.
"People would naturally assume 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.
"Since the cabinet report says this is not about saving money why is it reducing services for local residents and reducing the
ease they can be accessed, whilst charging local residents more in council tax.
"This is a further poor decision by our council's leadership."
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.
"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, more expert officers would be 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 the service was being 'transformed' to meet 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."
He added customers needing help with benefits or council tax were already being urged to contact the authority during the week when an expert was available.
"And as most payments are made by telephone, our 24/7 payment line could be used."
He added the authority was ensuring customers had their enquiry dealt with in the best possible way and got the information they needed, 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.”
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