HUNTINGDONSHIRE District Council's new call centre, at Speke House in St Ives, has handled 85,000 calls from the public since it opened last September, Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly learned during a visit last week. In 95 per cent of cases calls are answered within 20 seconds of the caller hearing a ringing tone. After 40 seconds, callers can leave a message. But the call keeps its place in the queue, so advisers normally ring back within minutes. The centre, which was officially opened in February by HDC chairman Councillor John Eddy, is part of the authority's "customer first" drive to improve and streamline direct contact with residents. The ultimate aim is that customer service staff should normally be able to deal with most queries satisfactorily without the need to refer them to specialist officers at HDC's Pathfinder House headquarters in Huntingdon - or its replacement. The initiative includes a service whereby someone moving into or out of the district or within it need make only one call to the centre, which will then notify every relevant HDC department. With the exception of Council Tax inquiries where additional information about possible discounts may apply, that system is already largely in place. Previously, separate calls were needed to deal with electoral registration, Council Tax, the benefits service and other departments. The call centre is staffed by a team leader and between two and 13 advisers, depending on the expected workload. It is open between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday, except Bank Holidays. A key feature of the replacement for Pathfinder House is a plan for an easily accessible facility for customer service staff to deal with personal callers, who are often among the most needy in the district. A temporary centre will be in place during construction work.