Cabinet to consider a change to the way people access services
Shropshire Council’s Cabinet is to consider a change to the way people access services in their area, following a year-on-year decrease in the number of people visiting its face to face offices.
Over the past five years, the number of people using the council’s six main face to face offices has been steadily falling, from 70,615 in April 2014 to just 33,079 in April 2018. Also, some of the council’s smaller offices see no customers at all some months.
This fall in customer numbers is, in part, due to the council’s efforts to make it easier for customers to contact them by phone and carry out simple transactions online.
Every year, the council’s Customer Service Centre (CSC) helps more than 200,000 customers of all ages to access the same services as those handled at face to face points. Also, figures show that use of its new transactional webpages has more than doubled from 764,000 online sessions in 2015 to 1.6 million in 2017.
The cost of providing face to face access is expensive and, with pressures on budgets continuing, the council went out to consultation in July 2018 to seek people’s views on its proposals to reduce the number of days that staff are on site to help, whilst continuing to provide a service which meets the needs of its customers.
Following careful consideration of people’s feedback, the council is proposing to:
- Reduce the days on which staff at its main offices in Shrewsbury, Oswestry, Whitchurch, Market Drayton, Ludlow and Bridgnorth are available to directly support customers.
- Not offer a face to face service at its smaller offices in Albrighton, Bishop’s Castle, Broseley, Church Stretton Town Council and Church Stretton Health and Well-being Centre, Cleobury Country, Ellesmere, Shifnal and Wem, some of which have no recorded customer use.
These proposals will be included in a report which will be considered by the council’s Cabinet on Wednesday 27 February 2019.
Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for corporate and commercial support, said:
“Whilst we recognise that some customers prefer to use a face to face service, we have to find ways of achieving this on much-reduced budgets.
“As part of the proposals, we plan to keep our six main offices open during the times that they’re at their busiest, wherever possible. We’ve also made a commitment to continue to provide phones and computers at all of our offices, which will be free for our customers.
“Over the last few years we’ve worked really hard to provide people with different and more cost-effective ways of accessing the services that they need, and we’re pleased that people are using these more and more. Our future plans for digital transformation and bringing council services together will only add to this.
“It’s because of this that we feel confident that we can continue to be fair to our customers and provide value for money, despite these changes.”