Brighton and Hove Council complains about phone capacity

A COUNCIL wants a review of Brighton and Hove City Council’s telephone line capacity after spending time with customer service representatives.

North Portslade Councilor Peter Atkinson has been urged to act after local residents complained that they were able to reach staff even though customer service centers at Hove Town Hall and Bartholomew House in Brighton were open.

The independent councilor took to social media to ask people about their experiences because they had looked at individual cases but wanted to see the bigger picture.

Following responses from residents, he has reached out to Green Council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty, his Deputy Councilwoman Hannah Allbrooke, whose portfolio includes customer service, and Chief Executive Geoff Raw for action.

Councilor Atkinson said: “We have many elderly residents in North Portslade and Mile Oak who do not have access to the internet and often cannot find the right number for the service they want.

“That means they have to call the main council phone number, which can be very busy at times.

“But the phone is often the only way to get in touch with the community. The telephone service must be made much more user-friendly and customer-friendly. There are also residents who can use the internet but actually need to speak to someone in person.”

People told Councilor Atkinson they had trouble reaching several services and took a long time trying to reach them

Cityclean to report missed garbage and recycling pickups, community tax line, parking services to obtain parking permits, home repair service, housing services in general, officers to report the death of a tenant to the community.

Councilor Atkinson said people don’t understand why so few council staff have returned to public-facing roles, especially as he believes much of the council’s phone infrastructure is outdated and in need of modernization.

He said: “It has apparently been very difficult when there have been requests for parking permits lately but has calmed down now.

“If residents have any housing needs there are telephone points where they can speak to someone at Bartholomew House for private housing or homelessness issues or to the Moulsecoomb council housing hotline.

“However, I would have some concerns about the customer service center’s ability to cope when there is a large surge in people needing assistance due to the cost of living crisis.

“There are not that many employees there and they would quickly be overwhelmed. However, I am most concerned about the potential problems when the phone system is completely overloaded when winter comes and the cold along with the cost of living crisis really starts to bite.”

The council said: “Central Government funding to the council has fallen by more than £100m over the past decade.

“This has made it increasingly difficult for us to maintain services at the level that we and our residents would like to see.

“This financial pressure is becoming more extreme rather than less.

“This means we simply don’t have the resources to hire a large number of additional customer service representatives. However, we are proud of the work our team does to support our residents.

“Like virtually all other municipalities and companies, we have worked hard to improve our digital customer service offering.

“This allows us to respond to an increasing number of inquiries via online forms and emails.

“In turn, this has given us the ability to resolve issues over the phone when people’s needs cannot be met online.

“In cases where we are unable to meet customer needs online or over the phone, face-to-face appointments remain available for all services.

“These customers may include people who are struggling due to disabilities, language barriers or digital exclusion.

“Last year and earlier this year we experienced some technical issues as a result of expanding our digital response efforts.

“But our latest parking data shows that we are meeting our ‘Customer Promise’ expectations for average call wait times and digital query responses.

“We are aware of the problems residents face with the council tax phone line and email responses. We are working to fix these.

“These particular problems were caused by a large volume of additional work being expended on the service through government energy rebates.

“We know from our own customer feedback analysis that much of the pre-Covid dissatisfaction was related to our slow or inadequate response to emails and digital forms.

“With limited resources, we make sure we can provide the best possible support to those who need us most.”

READ MORE: Village floods with rains lasting over a month Brighton and Hove Council complains about phone capacity

Fry Electronics Team

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