A NEW scheme which could become a blueprint for other councils in the country is being piloted in Whitby.
Services at the Skinner Street offices are being re-located
Benefits and housing options service will be delivered by council staff from the JobCentre Plus premises in Bobbies Bank, while Customer First services will be based at the Tourist Information Centre, with improvements to be carried out to the Langborne Road building including a dedicated Customer First zone, improved layout and better signage.
Benefits and Housing Options enquiries will be dealt with from JobCentre Plus from 7 February, with the new Customer First zone due to be up and running from Monday 18 February.
Council planners previously based in Skinner Street have already begun working out of the harbour office on Endeavour Wharf, while engineers have moved to the shared council depot in Cholmley Way.
Scarborough Borough Council is now considering selling or renting out the Skinner Street offices, which are visited by 100 people per week, as part of a bid to save £2.6m in the next financial year.
The authority also says the closure of the Skinner Street building has been partly triggered by the successful introduction of the new Allpay payment scheme last year which means residents can use more convenient PayPoint outlets and post offices to pay bills rather than visit council offices.
The impending introduction of Universal Credit scheme will also replace a myriad of other benefits and be delivered in conjunction with JobCentre Plus staff.
Coun Brian Simpson, SBC’s cabinet member for customer services, said it made sense to form a partnership between the job centre and the benefits service. “There will be significant benefits for residents when they are brought under the same roof. For example, customers seeking to claim state benefits or Housing/Council Tax benefits, or report changes in personal circumstances, will have a ‘one stop shop’ to do so.
“In addition, 90% of clients seen by the council’s Housing Options service are not in work and are in receipt of benefits, so the move would enable more effective, speedier exchange of information with JobCentre Plus staff to support people in finding and returning to work and thus helping to prevent homelessness.”