SOLIHULL Council support services for vulnerable residents are set to be cut in an ‘unforgivable’ £200,000 savings plan.
‘Solihull Connect’ provides a point of access for users of council and charity assistance services across three borough locations.
It provides face-to-face support through walk-in centres and telephone and digital advice via a Contact Centre.
The council’s head of customer services Emma Mayhew will recommend cost-cutting proposals to councillors at a decision session next Wednesday (May 29).
Changes would mean services will be available for fewer hours and face-to-face services will no longer open on Saturdays.
The ‘underused’ service based in Shirley Library – which operated for five days a week from 9am to 5pm – would be scrapped with expert staff replaced by a self-service model.
Face-to-face services would remain available at the Core in Solihull town centre and the Bluebell Centre in Chelmsley Wood mall. The Bluebell Centre is also home to the Contact Centre.
Core and Bluebell services would stay open half an hour less from 9am (10am on Wednesdays) to 4.30pm while Saturday services – from 9am to 1pm – have been scrapped entirely. This is a total reduction of six-and-a-half hours.
The Chelmsley Wood Contact Centre changes will see it open 30 minutes later each morning and close half an hour earlier each evening – moving from being available 45.5 hours per week to 41 hours.
Ms Mayhew’s report states: “These proposals will enable a more cost efficient service by placing advisors on shift when they can be most productive.
“This would enable improved resourcing during remaining operating hours to reduce waiting times at the busiest times.”
The new model for the Shirley service offers online access to council services and support by library staff if required.
Green Party Shirley Councillor Tim Hodgson said: “The loss of Shirley Connect will be a blow because there isn’t another face to face means of speaking to the council in Shirley.
“There has been no scrutiny or consultation, and there is no research or impact assessment attached to the report forming the basis of the decision.
“We challenge the cabinet member to explain why three customers per hour at Shirley isn’t enough to justify a face to face service.
“If one of these avoids defaulting on council tax, or having to apply for financial assistance, it’s paid for itself.
“It’s a penny wise, pound foolish decision.”