Council to get new hotlines

THE council is to spend £260,000 on a centralised phone-answering service.

Space will be provided for 38 advisers, four team leaders and a manager at Westgate House.

Councillors had considered setting up the service in empty rooms at the Shay, but that would have cost £410,000 or at the former Ridings School, at Ovenden, Halifax, which would have cost £600,000.

Westgate House, above Tesco in Market Street, Halifax, is already home to several council departments, including 21 customer services advisors.

Others will transfer into the building from the rates office at Princess Buildings, according to the plan approved by Calderdale Council Cabinet.

The move will be paid for with the proceeds from the sale of the Broad Street car park.

According to the council’s head of customer services, Ann Wardle, the new “corporate contact centre” will handle nearly all the telephone calls the council receives from the public.

The switch is due to be completed by the end of May next year.

At present, about 12 per cent of the calls are related to benefits but that is expected to begin reducing significantly from 2013 when the Department of Work and Pensions will take over responsibility for such enquiries.

“It is likely that the impact of council budget reductions will also result in a reduction in demand for services but that is as yet unquantifiable,” she told the cabinet.

Improving the council’s website could reduce demand for telephone services in the longer term.

A review has shown at least 16 per cent of phone calls to the council would be unnecessary if the council changes the way it works.