Is Council able to operate with staff ing levels?

Bexhill Town Hall. 7/11/11 ENGSUS00120130122125245
Bexhill Town Hall. 7/11/11 ENGSUS00120130122125245
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Rother Council is struggling to answer the phones and wants to establish an online only culture.

That was the picture painted by one of its ruling members Cllr Angharad Davies when she reported back to Battle Town Council.

And her concerns over staff cuts, which have seen levels reduced by almost a third since 2010, were echoed by Rye Rother councillor Sam Souster who said services were suffering.

The Council’s problems were thrown into sharp relief earlier this year when hundreds of angry residents claimed they were unable to get through to speak to anyone about problems following the new waste collection scheme.

Cllr Davies said: “Rother has had a 60 percent reduction in government funding and reduced staff by 27 percent since 2010.

“The number of freedom of information requests the council is having to deal with has gone up - 399 requests to July this year, that is 13 a week.

It takes up a lot of staff time and Neighbourhood Plans are causing an extra burdern as well as changes to the electoral system.

“Staff taken on seem to be younger - we have really noticed the loss of experience and ability.

“The switchboard problems are symptomatic of the wayt things are going. The council is encouraging people to use the website but people feel better if they can talk to someone about a problem.”

Cllr Kevin Dixon said: “Enforcement issues have to be reported online. They are not taking calls.”

“If the council tax had gone up by 1.9 percent they would have an extra £1 million in their coffers but the council chose not to. it was an entirely political decision.”

Battle councillor Richard Jessop said: “Rother seem determined not to provide a service to residents. Members of the public are informing us that things are not right - we relay that to Rother Council and then it stops and goes no further.”

Cllr David Wilson commented: “If, as a council, you can’t get face to face contact with the public right then you can’t get anything right.”

A Rother Council spokesperson said: “The Council has seen a reduction in its government grant of £4million since 2010. Even before budget reductions it was difficult to deal with the number of calls we received at peak times, which can be as many as several hundred an hour. We brought in temporary staff to deal with calls relating to the changes in the waste collection contract but the sheer volume has at times meant that some customers have not be able to get through.

“We are still taking calls from the public, but encourage people to email us to avoid them waiting on the phone at busy periods.

“As we continue to face financial pressure, we would urge members of the public to help ease the burden on our customer services team by using our website where possible.”