In March 2017, the council announced that it would be closing its Customer Service Centres in Ramsey and Yaxley in August 2017, and its centre in St Neots in December 2017. However, having listened to the concerns of both residents and local district councillors, and having been assured by the district council that it can continue to deliver an effective and efficient service at the centres, Executive Leader, Cllr Robin Howe announced that the council would not be removing the remaining customer contact points until a more appropriate model for delivering customer service, one that meets the needs and expectations of all Huntingdonshire residents, has been put in place.
Following Cllr Howe’s announcement, made during his annual ‘State of the District’ speech to council on Wednesday, 28th June 2017, he said: "The initial decision to close the Customer Service Centres followed an in-depth investigation by the district council into customer need, and the level of business being conducted at the centres. All available evidence pointed at a decreasing volume of service centre use, with a high and increasing percentage of customers choosing to self-serve online or telephoning the council instead. However, despite the ever changing face of the way in which our customers interact with the council, and the council’s use of a Visiting Officer service for Housing Benefits, to ensure elderly and vulnerable clients can be seen in their own home, it was becoming increasingly apparent that the level of concern being voiced by local residents and district councillors to my cabinet colleagues and I, warranted having the Customer Service Centres at Ramsey, St Neots and Yaxley remain open at this time."
Cllr Howe added: "My philosophy has always been about establishing the expectation of customers, and determining how best products and services can be delivered to them such that their expectations are met or even exceeded. In this case, despite the council’s initial decision to centralise its Customer Service Centre operation in Huntingdon, in recognition of changing customer interaction and need, and as part of the council’s wider transformation programme, I believe it is the right decision to keep all our Customer Service Centres open for the time being."
Following the announcement by Cllr Howe that all Customer Service Centres would remain open, Executive Councillor for Transformation and Customers, Councillor Stephen Cawley said: "The district council is currently embarking on a three-year transformation process, which will shape how we deliver services across the district in the future. The pace of change and expectation means it is important that we find new ways of serving our customers and residents that meet their constantly evolving needs. I am confident that an appropriate model for delivering customer service at the very local level, in line with our transformation ambitions, will emerge and until then, I think it sensible to maintain a local presence."
In addition to news that all of Huntingdonshire’s Customer Service Centres would remain open, Cllr Howe’s annual ‘State of the District’ speech detailed a number of other initiatives that the district council is overseeing. These include key elements of the new Local Plan guiding development across the district until 2036, which was approved for consultation by the district’s cabinet on 22 June 2017.
The purpose of the new Local Plan is to set out:
- the strategy for development in the whole of Huntingdonshire
- policies for managing development and
- details of sites for development to meet the needs of Huntingdonshire.
A key element of the Plan includes building sufficient houses to meet the 2036 forecasted population, incorporating the adequate supply of affordable housing.
At Wednesday’s council meeting, Cllr Howe also commented on MOSAIC, the council’s Transformation project. He said: "It is an exciting initiative that reflects the council’s desire of becoming as efficient as it can. The project will transform the way this council delivers its services. Defining customer expectations, redesigning processes to shorten lead times and improving service quality will turn us into a service-driven organisation, with employees who are empowered to perform better for their customers, and who in turn achieve more job satisfaction."