Councils have fallen out over their thoughts on whether offices are open and offering in-person services.
Green Councilwoman Hannah Clare accused the Conservatives of “misleading” residents by saying people cannot access Brighton and Hove City Council services in person.
The Greens vice-leader made the comments as the Conservatives presented a motion to the full council on Thursday, July 21, raising concerns about customer satisfaction and calling for a “return to in-person services”.
Councilor Clare said: “I would like to bring some truth to this debate.
“I’m not sure if the conservative group is maliciously misleading people about the services they offer, or if they’re just not paying attention.
“In any case, the Brighton Customer Experience Center has been open since September 2021 and the Hove Customer Experience Center since April 2022.
“By continuing to claim that it does not offer personal customer service, the conservative group is misleading the public and failing the people they claim care most.
“People keep seeing claims from Conservatives that they don’t have access to services when they can.
“The best way to support people who need to attend face-to-face church service is to tell people they can, rather than claiming they can’t.
“I know because I visit regularly. You can just show up at the Hove and Brighton Customer Experience Center and speak to someone.
“If the person there is unable to help you, and nine times out of ten they can, then they will reach out to the team who can or will assist you to access the digital form and find out what they can do to resolve the request.”
Councilwoman Clare said she visited the parking service office on Wednesday and found it “buzzing with work” as most desks were occupied. She said she has “every confidence” that those working elsewhere do so “to the best of their ability”.
Conservative councilor Alistair McNair had tabled the motion for the council, calling for a return to pre-pandemic levels of 15 percent of face-to-face meetings as there were none last year.
He cited the Customer Insight report that only 57 percent of city government customers were satisfied with the service they received, which he described as “no confirmation”.
Councilor McNair said: “Residents want the human touch. Email and online forms are cold.
“There are many plans to improve the council website and the digital offering. Fine as long as they work.
“There is very little emphasis on encouraging residents, our most vulnerable residents, to meet with City Council staff.”
Conservative Councilwoman Anne Meadows supported her colleague from the Parish of Patcham and said residents had told her the council was not “public”.
She said: “I got that from the officers themselves. While waiting on the phone to make an appointment for one of my vulnerable residents, I had time for a cup of tea.
“When I was finally able to speak to an officer, I was told, ‘We don’t do face-to-face meetings, that’s politics’, that wasn’t too long ago.
“As far as I know, that hasn’t changed. Housing is a key service for me for so many reasons.
“Despite reassurances from the Housing Director and Green Councillors, our service is not open and this is not happening to as many of our city’s vulnerable residents.
“We still need face-to-face meetings for those who have no other access to our services, and that’s not happening.”
Labor Councilor Daniel Yates helped Councilor Clare amend the Conservative motion to include references to the opening of customer service centers and the availability of face-to-face meetings with council officials.
He said: “We cannot afford to exclude some by switching to all online services, as we know only too well.
“Not all residents are comfortable with the face-to-face approach, and they have already suffered from the forced closures of customer service points in recent years.”
Councilor Yates said the council invested in Hove Town Hall’s customer service center ten years ago, improving satisfaction and leading to a ‘great outcome for residents’.
https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/20505019.brighton-hove-council-services-row/?ref=rss Brighton and Hove Council Services Row