Here are some frequently asked questions regarding the future of the Customer Service Centres
Like many local authorities we are experiencing significant budget reductions as the Government grant that helps us provide services to local people is cut year on year.
This means we’ve been making efficiency savings and changing the way we work to reduce costs, but this isn’t enough. So far the Government grant we receive has been cut by almost 50% and it is proposed the whole grant may disappear by 2019-20.
As a result we are looking at making further savings, in particular, where changes to the way we work and advances in technology has had an impact on service use. The Customer Service Centres are currently under review and a proposal to close the face to face contact at our Buckingham and Winslow centres was discussed at our cabinet meeting on 17 December.
In response to comments and questions raised, we hope the following Q & A’ s may help make the picture clearer. A copy of the report that cabinet discussed and the minutes of the meeting can also be found on our website by clicking here.
Q. Why are you considering closing the Buckingham and Winslow centres?
A. The number of customers who attend our area offices have fallen significantly in the last few years; most of the visits made are for people to pay their council tax. This can just as easily be done at a number of different ways including at local shops instead at a fraction of the cost to council tax payers. Closing the centres could free up over £81,700 a year which we can use to help protect other essential services.
Q. £81,700 doesn’t sound like a lot of money. Is it really important to make these savings?
A. On average, only around 10%, or £130, of the annual council tax you pay in full each year is kept by us to provide all our services. The rest is passed on to Bucks County Council, local parish or town councils, Thames Valley Police and Bucks Fire & Rescue.
AVDCs share of the payments being made via the centres is on average £14 yet it costs us £19.38 per payment to process them at the Winslow centre and £12.59 per payment at the Buckingham centre. This doesn’t represent good value for money for council tax payers.
Q. Don’t people need to go into the local offices to claim benefits?
A. No, things have changed over the last few years. Most claims for housing benefit are made using an electronic exchange of information between AVDC on the one hand and the Government’s Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) or Pension Service on the other.
People also use our telephone claiming service, and, in those cases where supporting evidence is needed, customers can now send us photocopies or e-mail us a picture of their documents from smartphones, rather than producing the actual documents for us to copy as previously.
Q. What about homeless people, where do they go for help if you close the centres?
A. The area offices do not currently deal with homelessness applications. People needing to register as homeless will continue to phone AVDC direct and we will arrange the best place to meet to discuss their application.
Q. If the centres close, how can I get information about AVDC services or ask questions instead?
A You have quite a lot of choice about how you do this, as people who live in rural areas already do. You can contact us by:
• Telephone from home
• Telephone from the help point that will still be situated at the Buckingham Centre
• Email, text, post or fax
• Text relay (if you are deaf or hard of hearing)
• Online, using the web forms on our web page. (There is free access to the internet at many libraries)
• Use your smartphone
• Message us on Facebook
• Read about on our services in Aylesbury Vale Times
• Read about our events and services in the local press
• Pre-booking an appointment at a local surgery and
• If your personal circumstances are particularly challenging, we can arrange a home visit.
• If people really want to see someone face to face, they can book an appointment to see a specialist officer by arranged appointment at our Gateway Offices in Aylesbury.
Q. I normally pay my council tax at the area office, how can I make a payment once they close?
A. There are several ways to do this.
The most safe, convenient and secure way to make payments is to set up a direct debit. You can do this by telephoning us on 01296 585299.
You can pay by debit or credit card on-line
You can make a card payment over the telephone by calling us on 01296 585820.
You can also post cheques to us at the PO Box given on the bill, or
At any local Post Office or a shop showing the Paypoint sign, including:
Buckingham or Winslow Post Offices
Belci Food and Wine High Street Buckingham
Londis Nelson Road Buckingham
The Co-op Winslow High Street.
To view a map showing Paypoint or Post Office locations where you can make cash payments, visit our payment methods webpage.