Kirklees Council has plans to close Huddersfield’s Customer Service Centre, prompting fears for some of the borough’s most vulnerable residents.
The centre at Civic Centre III, across from Huddersfield bus station, offers residents support across a number of areas from accessing the computer and filling out forms, to providing help and advice about benefits. However, this is soon to change as the council has confirmed that it wants to close the centre as part of its money-saving plans.
One resident who uses the service said that the biggest impact will be on the elderly, those with learning difficulties and people who have trouble accessing the internet on their own. A petition has reportedly been launched, urging the council to rethink its plans.
Instead of having two sites based in Huddersfield and Dewsbury as is the case currently, the local authority wants to integrate its customer services within libraries across the borough. This has already begun in part, with Huddersfield’s library services moving to the town’s Customer Service Centre at the beginning of last year to make way for the Cultural Heart Plans.
Dewsbury’s Customer Services team has already moved into the Dewsbury Library due to maintenance works at the Walsh building. The council says that now is the time to replicate this integrative approach elsewhere in the borough.
According to the council’s draft budget, the planned changes to the service will impact 32.5 full-time equivalent jobs in 2024/25, and a further 14.5 in 2025/26.
Cllr Paul Davies, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Corporate said: “A key part of the council’s Access to Services Strategy is offering services to people at a local level and at a time and place that works for them. With this in mind, a report will be presented to cabinet later this month that will propose an integration of customer service functions with local libraries.
“This would mean residents would be able to access more support services from a location closer to home rather than having to travel into town to visit a Customer Service Centre.
He added: “The proposals also reflect the changes we have seen since the COVID pandemic where there has been a significant reduction in face-to-face enquiries as residents use digital means to increasingly access the support they require.
“If proposals are approved residents will still be able to access the support they need for a wide variety of things including access to IT and WiFi, help with completing forms and a Warm Space for elderly and vulnerable residents to come together. Digital and telephony support will be available to ensure residents can still access the support they need including for those people who are not digitally savvy.
“In a world of challenging local government finances, Kirklees Council will be presenting a balanced budget, and this means we need to be more efficient in the way we deliver services to our residents.”