Solihull Council support service in Shirley spared axe after cross-party opposition - The Solihull Observer

Solihull Council support service in Shirley spared axe after cross-party opposition

Solihull Editorial 30th May, 2019 Updated: 31st May, 2019   0

A SOLIHULL Council support service in Shirley has been spared the axe after cross-party opposition to a £200,000 savings plan.

Outraged Conservative and Green Party councillors forced compromises to the original plans at a Stronger and Safer Communities decision session last night (May 29).

‘Solihull Connect’ provides a point of access for users of council and charity assistance services across three borough locations.

It provides face-to-face support through walk-in centres and telephone and digital advice via a Contact Centre.

Last week, the council’s head of customer services Emma Mayhew recommended changes that will see services available for fewer hours and face-to-face services cut on Saturdays.

And the ‘underused’ service based in Shirley Library – which operates for five days a week from 9am to 5pm – would also have been scrapped, prompting criticism from councillors.

But concessions were agreed by Tory cabinet member for communities Alison Rolf after hearing representations from several fellow councillors.

The diluted plans – which will be piloted for three months – mean one face-to-face adviser will stay at the Shirley service, Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 3pm.

But library staff – who will receive some training – will be providing support from 3pm to 5pm on those days.

The service was going to be cut to a self-service model with only online access to council services and support by library staff if required.

Conservative Councillor Karen Grinsell tweeted last night: “Pleased with the outcome tonight following my deputation against the removal of face-to-face Connect Service at Shirley Library.”

Green councillor Tim Hodgson who criticised the proposals as ‘penny wise and pound foolish’ tweeted last night: “I was there in solidarity and made my views clear in writing.

“The library is in my ward so having a face-to-face interface with the council via Solihull Connect is important to me.

“Good outcome for Shirley tonight.”

Conservative Mark Parker also wrote a letter of objection against the Shirley proposals.

Other face-to-face services will remain available at the Core in Solihull town centre and the Bluebell Centre in Chelmsley Wood mall.

The Bluebell Centre is also home to the Contact Centre.

The other approved changes will see Core and Bluebell services stay open half an hour less from 9am (10am on Wednesdays) to 4.30pm while Saturday services – from 9am to 1pm – have been scrapped entirely. This is a total reduction of six-and-a-half hours.

The Chelmsley Wood Contact Centre changes will see it open 30 minutes later each morning and close half an hour earlier each evening – moving from being available 45.5 hours per week to 41 hours.

The Contact Centre will now be open from 9am to 5pm.

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