Fight begins to save customer service centres from cuts

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COMPUTERS could replace some advisors as consultation begins over the future of a city’s customer service centres.

Hull Council, which is facing another huge Government spending squeeze of £47m by 2018, is looking to save £300,000 from five CSCs, including on Bransholme, Orchard Park and Holderness Road.

The four-week consultation asks residents about how comfortable they are with accessing services online. It claims it “will be quicker than seeing an advisor face to face.”

Lib Dem councillors have already set up a petition to save the Holderness Road CSC.

They fear cost-cutting will lead to reduced opening hours which will make the centre unviable and question the level of council spending on non-frontline services - including £500,000 on a cruise ship terminal.

Coun Linda Chambers said: “Every time I go to the CSC it’s full - there are people trying to sort out housing problems, round rent arrears and making parking payments. Sometimes people get fed up putting things online and not having a face-to-face discussion.”

The CSCs give access to over 130 council services including applying for benefits or housing, getting bus passes, and getting help with council forms.

Labour councillor John Hewitt said the Lib Dems should tell Nick Clegg to put money back into local government. He said: “I’ve had two-thirds of my budget cut in two years. It’s alright demanding places should be kept open - I totally agree and don’t want any closing at all - but it’s their Government that is doing it.” Coun Hewitt said they were trying to accommodate the Department for Works and Pensions which was moving services online and were trying to make sure “people weren’t left behind”. He said he believed face-to-face contact would continue to be available at the Wilson Centre, in the city centre, adding: “We are not just going to throw in the computers and say: ‘There’s a computer get on with it’.”