Relocation of advisor prompts major concerns

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Concerns have been raised by a decision to move a customer service advisor out of Alnwick.

The Gazette has learnt that the member of staff who deals with inquiries from Northumberland County Council tenants at the Greenwell Lane office will relocate to Northumbria House, Cramlington.

This will come into effect on Monday, September, 5. The authority has defended the decision, but Alnwick county councillors Gordon Castle and Heather Cairns aren’t impressed.

A county council spokeswoman said: “We understand that council tenants may be concerned about this change to the way services are provided. There will still be customer services staff at Greenwell Lane who can deal with face-to-face inquiries from the public about a range of services, including housing.

“We will be providing additional support and training for these staff to make sure that they are able to deal with the type of inquiry that housing tenants currently visit us with.

“There will be a direct phone line which can be used to speak to the contact centre about housing-related issues.

“The proposals reflect arrangements in place across other parts of Northumberland, including in Blyth and other towns where there are a high number of council tenants. We are bringing together frontline customer services in all main towns so that all residents can access a wide range of services all in one place. We will monitor the new arrangements and address concerns arising from the change.”

But Coun Castle told the Gazette: “I am not able to support this degradation of services to council tenants in Alnwick, who comprise 30 per cent of all county council housing tenants. I’m sure other staff will be given upgraded training, but the specialist attention presently provided needs to be continued on site.

“I will be advising those tenants affected that this decision was taken without consultation with local members, and I’m pretty sure that the forum of Tenants Voice, which was supposed to be the tenants consultative body, was not asked to take a view. Alnwick has a large number of tenants who go to Greenwell Lane for specialist advice.”

Coun Cairns said she remained unconvinced.