Buckingham and Winslow look set to lose face-to-face services

editorial image
Share this article

Buckingham and Winslow look set to lose their area offices in a cost-saving exercise.

The future of the area offices is up for discussion at AVDC’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday, December 17.

Cabinet members will consider a recommendation to stop providing a face-to-face contact point for AVDC enquiries at its area offices and encourage customers to pay bills at post offices and PayPoint outlets instead – saving AVDC £81,700 a year.

On the same day, Bucks County Council’s budget and scrutiny committee will consider draft budget plans which include ceasing its customer service function at the Buckingham Centre from 2016/17, saving £31,000 a year.

AVDC currently runs area offices at the Buckingham Centre and at Winslow Library, where people can get advice and help with completing forms and pay bills.

But it says there has been a steady drop in the number of people using the offices, with less than 26 AVDC customers using the Winslow office every week and less than 80 using the Buckingham office.

Most people visit the area offices to pay their bills. But AVDC says there are now many other ways to make payments. And it is also in the process of moving away from face-to-face contact in Aylesbury town centre.

Cabinet member for community matters, Pam Pearce, said: “The way people access council services is changing and people tend to prefer contacting us either by phone or using our online services.

“It is clear from the visitor figures that maintaining the Buckingham and Winslow area offices in this manner is not efficient or cost effective.”

Buckingham district councillor Robin Stuchbury said: “If both customer services pull out, it’s going to make life very difficult for library staff and town council staff because people will turn to them for help.

“I think it’s flawed because they haven’t looked at all the options and they haven’t contacted the town council to see if they could be part of the solution.”

Winslow town councillor Llew Monger said: “I’m very disappointed.

“AVDC have not followed up on an opportunity for us to deliver a service on their behalf. Winslow Town Council offered to provide a service level for less than half the cost to AVDC but that appears to have been rejected out of hand.”

“There are a lot of people, particularly older people, who much prefer face-to-face contact.”

And he added: “AVDC have spent over £25,000 on rent in the library while their own office in Winslow remains vacant.

“Three years ago, they vacated their office on the High Street and they’ve been paying £8,700 a year for the cubby hole they rent in the corner of the library.”