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Big step forward for Christchurch and East Dorset councils’ HQ merger
PROPOSALS to operate one council headquarters for both Christchurch and East Dorset councils have been cemented in a new plan.
A report to the resources committee at Christchurch council on Wednesday set out plans for the councils’ partnership over the next five years.
The proposals include one administrative headquarters building, a range of satellite public access points, democratic facilities based in Christchurch and Wimborne with home and remote working becoming the “cornerstones of service delivery and customer service”.
A great emphasis is also put on the digital delivery of services, with the council predicting that direct person-to-person contact for their services will “become the exception rather than the norm”.
The document states core staff will be moved to one location within five years, with remaining property reviewed with the view to “disposing of surplus assets or sharing with other organisations”.
Cllr Denise Jones said: “I am rather concerned at this belief that we are all computer literate.
“I am also obviously rather worried at one common office and I would need a lot of persuading that this is to the benefit of Christchurch. Yes, I will accept that we will note the plan but I do hope that those involved will look at the world as it is, not at the world as they would like it to be.
“We represent well over 40,000 people who rely on us and need access to services in a way they can understand and access easily.
“We need the personal touch; it is what we have benefited from in the past.”
Independent councillor Colin Bungey added: “We need to consider there are 15,000 people come through the (Civic Offices) doors in a year, many of them elderly and not at all interested in using computers to get the answers they want.”
Dave Barnes, strategic director at the partnership, said: “We have made a lot of progress in terms of sharing services and saving us money but we are at a point in time where we need to get on. Anticipated reduction in our funding is predicted to be around £1.5million for this council by 2015. We are going on a journey and we are moving in the right direction but it needs to continue.”