Council to improve future engagement

Dumfries and Galloway Council is to look at how itcommunicates with elected members and communities in the future after criticism over the handling of last year’s integrated services programme.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Community and Customer Services committee in Dumfries, members discussed how the local authority could be more effective in gaining feedback from members, stakeholders, communities and staff in relation to changes that will affect them in future.

The council was lambasted by elected members and community groups last year after failing to involve them in its decision to shut various community facilities and move user groups into alternative facilities to achieve budget savings.

In phase two of the integration of libraries, registration and customer services in 2014/15 the council will offer customer service facilities in libraries based in Wigtown, Whithorn, Port William and Gatehouse. The council will also phase out the collection of DGHP rents and council tax payments at its facilities.

Alternative payment options will be by direct debit, online and telephone payments or cash payments via the Post Office and Paypoint networks.

Council officers will work closely with the staff and identify stakeholders who may be affected by changes to opening hours at these facilities and potential opening hours will be identified based on usage rates and current busy periods.

Consultation with the public will be available for a minimum period of four weeks in advance of the changes to allow the public to have their say.

A monthly press release will give details about what changes to what facilities are planned and elected members will receive a monthly briefing and a progress report will be prepared for each meeting of the community and customer services committee.

Mid Galloway Councillor and vice-chairman of the CCS committee Alistair Geddes said : “I welcome this much more inclusive and vigorous process.”

I was critical last year of the lack of due process and these changes should lead to more meaningful engagement with stakeholders and communities.”