Council to halt Saturday-morning opening
SATURDAY morning opening at St Albans District Council offices is to end in a bid to save money. It is to finish from January 1 following an initial surge of interest in using it when it started in 2005 which has since fallen off to only around 36 custom
SATURDAY morning opening at St Albans District Council offices is to end in a bid to save money.
It is to finish from January 1 following an initial surge of interest in using it when it started in 2005 which has since fallen off to only around 36 customers each Saturday.
The council's portfolio holder for resources, Cllr Chris Oxley, said that when it first started many residents could not access services other than by making a personal visit to the offices.
He added: "Since this time we have expanded and improved the web so that almost all services can be accessed 24/7 365 days a year from home or the local library or through a number of local internet cafes or during normal office hours via the much-improved telephone centre.
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"Accordingly the demand for Saturday opening has fallen significantly such that we do not feel the service is providing good value for local taxpayers."
Most of the inquiries currently addressed to the Saturday morning service are very general including asking for directions or dropping in bills which could be posted in the council's letter box and do not need expensive specialist skilled staff.
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The drop in demand has coincided with the council facing reduced income because of the impact of the credit crunch together with a below-inflation Government grant settlement for 2009/10 of 0.5 per cent which compares to the current Retail Prices Index inflation rate of three per cent.
He maintained the closure of the Saturday service would save the council around £42,000 a year or about 0.5 per cent on district council tax.
But Labour group leader and prospective Parliamentary candidate, Cllr Roma Mills, maintained that it would only save £15,000 in the current financial year.
The council's customer contact centre will continue to be open from 8.45am to 5pm Monday to Thursday and from 8.45am to 4.30pm on Friday and all council bill payments can be made through the 24-hour automated payment line on 01727 862956.
Most frequently asked queries can be dealt with through the council's website www.stalbans.gov.uk