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Opening hours to be reduced at Shropshire Council customer service points

By Aimee Jones | Politics | Published: | Last Updated:

The opening hours at Shropshire Council's customer service points are due to be slashed.

Shropshire Council

Cabinet members will be asked next week to approve a document which recommends reducing the opening hours at the six main face-to-face offices at Shrewsbury, Oswestry, Whitchurch, Market Drayton, Ludlow and Bridgnorth.

It also recommends not renewing the £31,500 contract which sees customer support at the smaller offices in Bishop's Castle, Broseley, Shifnal, Albrighton, Church Stretton, Wem, Cleobury Mortimer and Ellesmere.

Chris Westwood, head of Shropshire Council customer services, said: "The important message is that we are not closing and are always here to help.

"This is not just about saving money. It's an appraisal of how the money is spent. We have seen a huge change in the way people are contacting us.

"It is not surprising that most people actually already phone us. Shropshire is a rural county and most people don't live by a Shropshire Council building of any description. Some of the smaller offices don't see anyone go in for months at a time."

He said the authority now also deals with more people via e-mail, social media and web chat.

Different

In the last four years the number of people visiting the offices has fallen by more than 50 per cent, from 70,615 in April 2014 to 33,079 in April 2018.

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Under the new plans, the nine smaller offices will not be staffed but visitors will have access to a computer and phone which will put them in contact with the necessary department in Shropshire Council.

The bigger centres will be staffed on certain days and will be self-service only on others.

Mr Westwood said: "This doesn't mean we are closed. You can still come in and contact us, but on some days it might be in a different way. They will be open but at a level that matches the number of customers that come in."

There are currently 12 staff employed at the customer service points, but Mr Westwood said he is "pretty confident" there will not be any redundancies.

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He added: "The jobs may be different and through a different channel but we do not want to lose these experts.

"Yes, in the future most people will go online and get the information they need, but we're not there yet and we need these people to provide support."

Some of the customer service points are based in town libraries while others are in local civic centres or community hubs.

Visitors are able to get advice on housing matters, buy parking permits, renew disabled badges, apply for concessionary travel permits and more.

Aimee Jones

By Aimee Jones
@aimeejones_star

Senior reporter based at the Shropshire Star's Shrewsbury office, covering Shrewsbury, North Shropshire and South Shropshire.

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