The Scrutiny Committee at its meeting in July recommended that Council be asked to look at the idea of diminishing the level of face to face services at Phoenix House to allow for one session a month to be provided at Crediton and Cullompton. At Council on 30 August following discussion and upon a vote being taken, the recommendation was declared to have been carried. The Community PDG were asked to take this forward. A document is attached for consideration.
The Scrutiny Committee at its meeting in July had recommended that Council be asked to look at the idea of diminishing the level of face to face services at Phoenix House to allow for one session a month to be provided at Crediton and Cullompton. At Council on 30 August following discussion and upon a vote being taken, the recommendation was declared to have been carried. The Community PDG were asked to take this forward.
The Group had before it a briefing paper * which provided background to the cessation of the service.
As part of a decision to rationalise council services and meet a balanced budget, the council withdrew its staff and services from the offices in Crediton on 1 April 2016.
A proposed amendment to the budget to retain services at the Crediton Office was put forward at the meeting of full council on 24th February 2016. This proposal was supported by 4 councillors (plus one abstention), with the rest of the council voting against. As such officers implemented the decision as agreed by council.
When this full time service ended the staff employed in Crediton had been made redundant and the budget removed from the Customer First (CF) budget.
Since then, officers had provided a fortnightly ‘surgery’ in Crediton and Cullompton on alternate Mondays. This was agreed as a transitionary arrangement, not least since the council was incurring fixed IT costs in Crediton until August 2017 so it had made sense operationally to utilise the facilities that existed while they were available.
The surgeries had ceased entirely from August 2017 and were no longer provided. The budget had been cut, and the IT facilities no longer existed to access the council’s systems from these locations.
Cllr F W Letch, speaking in support of maintaining a presence in Crediton informed the Group that figures identifying numbers using the services in Crediton and Tiverton could not be compared due to the sporadic attendance in Crediton, which meant that the public were unsure of opening times. He queried the differences with the two towns and why Tiverton residents received a different service to Crediton residents. He also outlined difficulties in using public transport to travel from Crediton to Tiverton. Cllr Letch commented that he had witnessed times in Tiverton when there were no members of the public waiting to speak to an officer and proposed that consideration be given to reduce the level of staffing in Tiverton to fund some cover for Crediton.
Cllr Mrs E M Andrews, speaking in support of maintaining services in Cullompton commented that when she had asked residents in Cullompton whether or not they had used the surgery they had replied that they did not know about the service. She asked that residents of Cullompton be treated equally to residents of Tiverton.
Discussion took place regarding:
· Residents in rural areas and smaller towns that did not receive a local service but contacted the Council by other means such as telephone or digitally;
· The ‘digital age’ and the fact that many organisations now expected the public to contact them by these means;
· Tiverton being the main town in the District and being the main base for the Authority;
· The importance of a reliable broadband provision;
· The fact that the decision to remove the service had been agreed a considerable time ago and the difficulties that would be faced to reinstate.
It was RESOLVED that the existing decision to withdraw services be ratified.
(Proposed by the Chairman and seconded by Cllr Mrs G Doe)
Note: i) Briefing paper * previously circulated and attached to Minutes.
ii) Cllrs Mrs E M Andrews and F W Letch asked that their vote against the proposal be noted.