Backing for shake-up of council services

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WHITBY’S Skinner Street council offices could be sold off as part of plans to shake up council services in the town.

Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) says it wants to make services more efficient, save money and make it easier for tenants and residents to pay bills.

A report was presented to, and accepted, by councillors on Tuesday which outlined proposals to move the council benefits and housing options services currently based at Skinner Street to the Job Centre office on Bobbies Bank.

Cash payments via Customer First also in Skinner Street will be phased out where there is an service nearby in places such as Post Offices and local shops and the Customer First service will be moved to the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) at Dock End.

Council officers are also looking at the possibility of renting out or selling off the Skinner Street offices. If it was to be sold it is thought it could raise around £160,000.

The proposals follow a consultation exercise and the council plan to regenerate local economies and improve the delivery of council services.

The review of Skinner Street found it was “not really fit for purpose” and was cramped, had no decent interview spaces, poor access for the disabled and just one manned cash desk.

While the TIC is more modern, the layout and signage is said to be poor and there is a risk of shop lifting so combining the two remits would allow for a revamp.

By making the payments of bills available at shops, officers said it would encourage people into local businesses and enable them to pay bills at evenings and weekends to suit them.

In turn, Customer First staff would be able to deal with more enquiries about benefits, housing and revenues because they were not tied up taking payments.

Since the introduction of the system the number of people using Skinner Street to make payments had dropped by over 50%.

It is thought the planning officer based at Skinner Street will move to the offices that will be shared between SBC and North Yorkshire County Council, holding planning advice surgeries at the TIC building.

The council document said: “There is a clear majority opinion that the proposed changes would improve the delivery of council services to customers in Whitby and the Northern Area.

“Given the current budgetary pressures faced by the council and the need to make efficiency savings any proposals need to be cost neutral at a minimum and ideally deliver revenue savings.”