Plan to close customer service centres is ditched after hundreds of people sign a petition

PUBLISHED: 07:44 05 July 2017

Derek Giles, Sandie Giles and James Corley with the petition.

Derek Giles, Sandie Giles and James Corley with the petition.

Archant

A controversial plan to close three customer service centres in Huntingdonshire has been shelved by councillors.

The hubs, run by Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC), provide information and advice on a range of services, including benefits, and act as a payment portal for fines and other council services.

HDC leader, Councillor Robin Howe, told a meeting of the full council on June 28 that the centres, in St Neots, Ramsey and Yaxley, would not close, but added: “until we can ensure all our customers’ needs are met”.

Councillor Barry Chapman, who represents St Neots, suggested combining the advice and payment portals with other services such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

“We need to have some sort of place where customers can come so that people don’t have to travel to Huntingdon, so they are in their hometown and don’t have that additional cost to get into Huntingdon,” Cllr Chapman told the chamber.

After the meeting, Cllr Howe told The Hunts Post: “It was poor timing to call the closure of those three sites, but I think that we have listened to the community and listened to our councillors, in particular, and we have said we won’t do that.”

A petition, launched by district councillors Derek and Sandie Giles and James Corley, attracted hundreds of signatures after the plans were announced last month. Cllr Sandie Giles told The Hunts Post that almost 2,000 people had signed the petition in less than two weeks.

“I am absolutely thrilled with this change of heart,” said Cllr Giles.

“Many of the online comments against this proposed closure centred on our elderly and vulnerable residents who would

find it extremely difficult to get

into Huntingdon for face-to-face help.”

Cllr Derek Giles added: “I am absolutely delighted at the u-turn. Without doubt the comments in the online petition demonstrated the strength of feeling and the hardship the closure would have caused to our residents in what was a cost saving exercise by HDC.

“The town council will work with HDC to ensure that the service works even better for the residents of our town. It’s the value of the service not the cost that is important.

“I thank all the 1,700-plus residents who felt so strongly about this closure that they gave us the ammunition to fight against the closure.”

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