Highland Council begins public consultation on future of service points

Proposals for changing customer service provision in 22 locations across Highland are being considered as part of a public consultation.

Council staff and members of the public are being asked for their views on proposed changes to how services are currently provided.  Currently, there are 35 Service Points providing face to face contact along with a dedicated Registration Office based in Inverness, as well as a Service Centre in Alness which responds to telephone and email enquiries. There is also a Digital Services Team based in Inverness to support online services.

Recent years have shown a change in the way that customers want to contact the Council. Evidence shows that more customers are choosing to telephone or email us and fewer customers visiting our offices.

Whilst more and more customers are opting to telephone or e-mail to access the Council services, there is still a requirement to offer a face to face service across Highland for complex in-depth enquiries and services such as Registration events in some locations. The proposals are that 13 Service Points would act as Community Hubs, offering the full range of services and dedicated appointments for essential services.

The 13 proposed Community Hubs are as follows:- Inverness Church Street, Nairn, Aviemore, Dingwall, Alness, Tain, Golspie, Wick, Thurso, Ullapool,  Kyle, Portree and Fort William. In other areas, there will be access points available for a more limited range of services. It is proposed that these would be located at Muir of Ord, Fortrose, Invergordon, Hilton, Ardersier, Grantown, Mallaig, Kinlochleven, Broadford, Lochcarron, Bettyhill, Bonar Bridge, Brora, Dornoch, Helmsdale Lairg and Kingussie.

A variety of other options are being looked at for the remaining 5 locations of Fort Augustus, Durness, Acharacle , Gairloch and Lochinver. These include a range of mobile services.

These proposals could release savings of up to £355,220, however around half of this would be re-invested to support improved services on telephone, email and online.  It is expected that e-transactions will substantially increase over the period due to the work that the Council is undertaking to offer more services on line.

Councillor Audrey Sinclair chairs of the Customer Services Board of ten elected Members which was set up in April 2014 to undertake the review and develop proposals. She said: “Before any decision can be made, it is important to hear the views of the people that live in these areas so that we can understand how any changes may impact on communities. We also want to hear any alternative options local people may want to suggest for the way services are delivered.”

Councillor Sinclair went on to say: “I am please we have now reached the stage of going out to consultation. I would stress, however, that these are proposals we are consulting on and no decisions have been made. We would welcome all views and we will take these into consideration before a final decision is made.”

The Consultation process will run from mid-Jan 2015 to mid-March 2015, and following that period, the feedback from the consultation will be presented back to the Customer Services Board for their consideration.

The consultation document and feedback forms can be found at http://www.highland.gov.uk

22 Jan 2015
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