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Housing and Benefits office may close in Acomb


12:01am 26th September 2011

Residents in the Acomb area of York could be able to access a variety of council services in their local community in the future.

City of York Council's Cabinet will be asked to agree plans to move Housing and Benefits staff out of the existing office on York Road, Acomb, allowing them to spend more time working with customers in community facilities, such as Acomb Explore, community centres and children's centres.

The plans are in line with the council's ambition to provide many of its services more locally in the future and, if agreed, could save the authority a combined amount of  £110,000 per year in reduced rental and other building related costs.

After paying the costs associated with leaving the building, part of the saving will accrue as savings to housing services, some will part fund replacement facilities within local areas and the rest will be a general saving to the council.

The authority is also planning to significantly improve its customer service provision by bringing existing reception services into a purpose-built customer centre at its new West Offices building, a move that will save the council £17m over the next 25 years.

In response to the findings of a recent customer survey carried out in Acomb, work is already underway to look at more flexible ways of working across the council, allowing customer-facing staff to work more within the communities they serve, for example, by holding weekly surgeries in the communities. The council is also improving its customer service by enhancing telephone and web access to services.

A recent analysis of usage of the existing office at Acomb indicated that the average number of customers visiting the reception each day was 42, 17 of which were benefits related. 

The city centre receptions receive an average 255 customers a day, 140 relating to housing and benefits (based on August 2011 figures during a holiday period), with an appointments system in place for benefits services at Library Square in the City Centre.

If councillors agree to take the opportunity to make the financial savings on the Acomb Office whilst improving customer access, detailed plans on how services would be provided in the future would be discussed with local residents and groups, and publicised before the reception area is closed.

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