ELDC’s Executive Board approves plans to change public access to services - despite town council opposition

Proposals intended to ‘improve and diversify’ the way in which East Lindsey residents access district council services were approved by ELDC’s Executive Board yesterday evening (Wednesday, July 7).

The new arrangements will replace ELDC's Customer Access Points, which have been closed since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The new arrangements will replace ELDC's Customer Access Points, which have been closed since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is claimed that the new arrangements, which will replace ELDC’s Customer Access Points that have been closed since the start of the pandemic, are focused on “providing a wider array of flexible options for residents, and reflect the changes in customer habits that have occurred since the pandemic started in March 2020”.

An East Lindsey District Council statement published after the meeting last night said the new arrangements will include:

• A community hub/drop-in model which will see specific council services regularly attending towns across East Lindsey to allow residents direct face-to-face access to services.

• Increased call centre capacity to accommodate the growing number of residents accessing council services via telephone.

• Ensuring a greater number of forms and services are accessible through the Council’s website, to support the increasing number of residents who access their services online.

• Based on customer demand, providing an appointment-based service in Skegness that will allow residents to access housing/support services.

• Developing a programme of review that ensure web and telephone options are accessible and meet customers’ needs and expectations.

Councillor Graham Marsh, Portfolio Holder for Partnerships and Deputy Leader of the Council, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic forced a change in how customers accessed our services and we want to ensure that, as we emerge from restrictions and towards a level of normality, the way we serve our customers reflects those changes and is fit for the future.

“Increased capacity within our call centre and across our digital channels will provide support for the ways many customers are now accessing our more transactional services.

“Separately to this, we are also ensuring continued provision and support for more vulnerable residents; recognising that there are some situations and services where there is no substitute for face to face support.

“Our revised model is more flexible and our proposals include reinvestment in front line services to ensure we can support residents appropriately across the District – including holding sessions in communities to ensure face to face provision remains available and accessible - and we will continuously review the accessibility of our services. We will work with our local communities and community groups to develop a revised model that meets customers’ needs.”

However, not everyone is happy with the proposals - and Louth Town Council unanimously opposed the plans at their meeting last week, as reported in this week’s Louth Leader newspaper.

The opposition was led by Councillor George Horton, who said he is ‘furious’ as he believes the proposal will impact elderly and vulnerable people, in addition to villagers who use the town’s facilities.

Coun Horton told the Louth Leader: “I have many elderly and vulnerable residents who don’t have a mobile phone or the internet.

“They used to enjoy popping into town and dropping into places like this to sort out their finances and so forth. What about the blind and the hard of hearing? There has been no consideration of these aspects of the community.

“This should not just be about saving money but about providing residents with services on a local basis. They deserve better.”

Coun Horton continued: “I am really angry with the council. I have checked their website very carefully and they state that before such decisions are taken they must consult the community.

“They say they need some of the money they save to reinvest in services for the vulnerable. If this isn’t a service for the vulnerable what is?”

He added: “The move would also see Louth without a Tourist Information Office. We are told all the time that tourism is our number one industry in East Lindsey.

“We want business to pick up in our market towns after the trials and tribulations of the last 18 months but where is the support for this?

“It seems to me the council says one thing and does another. I know when I go somewhere I like to pick up a leaflet or ask for some information, and I don’t think I am unusual in this.”

Prior to the Executive Board meeting, in response to Coun Horton’s comments, Coun Marsh told the Leader: “We are adapting to respond positively to the ways many customers are now accessing our more transactional services and ensuring that we focus customer services staff to deal with increased telephony and digital demand.

“Separately to this, we are also ensuring continued provision and support for more vulnerable residents – we recognise that there are some situations and services where there is no substitute for face to face support.

“Our revised model is more flexible and our proposals include reinvestment in front line services to ensure we can support residents appropriately across the district – including holding sessions in communities to ensure face to face provision remains available and accessible - and we will continuously review the accessibility of our services.

“We will work with our local communities and community groups to develop a revised model that meets customer’s needs.”

• The full report can be read online by visiting www.e-lindsey.gov.uk/Council and navigating to the relevant meeting (July 7) and viewing the associated documents.