Cost of integrating customer services

Newton Stewart Library now houses council integrated services
Newton Stewart Library now houses council integrated services

Dumfries and Galloway Council had to spend £383,000 to turn Stranraer and Newton Stewart libraries into multi-purpose customer service centres as part of their plans to cut costs by integrating services.

A report to elected members ahead of next Wednesday’s area committee meeting in Wigtown states changes in opening hours and staff have created ongoing revenue savings of £57,000.

The bulk of the spending was at Stranraer Library where £348,771 was spent. Reconfiguring the building cost £147,271, a new heating system cost £75,000, library shelving cost £72,000, office accommodation £7,500 and fees for the work totalled £47,000. The library gained two interview rooms for benefits customers and to accommodate the passport interview service; a local studies area; a bespoke children’s area and a wi-fi/book bar for internet use. A bespoke registration facility includes a registration room, waiting area, ceremonies room and separate entrance. The cybercentre was also turned into an IT training suite. The council will still retain its public reception area at their Ashwood House base in Sun Street and improvements to that area and the car park have come in at £117,808. Staff working from the Revenues and Benefits Department in North Strand Street will move into the upstairs seminar room in Stranraer Library in mid October, meaning a more joined up service is available from the premises.

Customer Service and Registration are now integrated into Newton Stewart Library with the reconfiguring work costing £33,980.

Wigtown Library and the registration office are both now based in the County Buildings but further work including a new counter to meet health and safety regulations and additional CCTV camera to ensure staff safety are in the pipeline.

Port William Library is currently situated in a small leased cottage just off Main Street, but there are no staff welfare facilities and space is very restricted. Council officers are currently investigating the possibility of moving library services into the village school. In Whithorn Library the facility will require a new counter and reconfiguration of the staff room to allow private interview facilities and staff welfare.

The integration has increased foot fall though the doors of both Stranraer and Newton Stewart libraries with an increase in visit numbers to the facilities for the first time in four years.

The integration of council services was agreed when the council set its budget in February 2013. Savings of £1 million over three years were identified if the services the local authority provide in towns across the region could be decanted into fewer buildings allowing the council to reduce its property portfolio.

At the beginning of this process there were two customer service centres, five libraries and three registration offices in the Wigtownshire area. In Newton Stewart, Wigtown and Stranraer, the council was providing either two or three services from separate premises using distinct groups of staff.

By bringing there services together customers are now able to access all of these services at one location.

Customers have also moved from personal contact to using email, telephone and self-service to contact and interact with the council.