UNIONS have warned of “severe” implications for calls centre workers after Doncaster Council’s cabinet backed a controversial plan to deal with phone inquiries.
The move has been described as saving £3.8 million - which the council says equates to 158 jobs.
Under the plans agreed by Mayor Peter Davies’ cabinet yesterday, 80 sections of the council which currently handle telephone inquires will be replaced with one centralised calls centre.
There would be only three phone numbers for the public to use to call the council.
But the move has raised concerns over job losses and over the service which will be available to the public from staff who may not have specialised knowledge of particular services.
Backing the plans, Mr Davies said there was nothing more in need of alteration than the current arrangements for calling the council.
He said: “The whole thing has been chaos. Before I became mayor, ringing the council was a nightmare. You would get put from department to department and usually finish up where you started or did not get any answers.
“The public will see a vast difference in customer service when they ring a council number.
“This is something that should have happened a long time ago. We are keeping services that customers need and not keeping those they don’t.”
The plans were also backed by the rest of his cabinet.
Coun Eric Tatton-Kelly described the current position as “nonsense” and said the current plans should have been brought in years ago.
The council has been ordered to make £70 million in savings by the Government over four years as part of its national spending cuts.
The move has raised concerns with the council workers union Unison.
Doncaster branch secretary Jim Board said: “The implications of this for Doncaster Council staff employed in this roles is severe. This is pretty much exactly what we expected with the council driving forward the cuts agenda.
“The implication for services is unclear. There was a re-organisation of customer services at the council a few years ago and we’re told that has not worked.
“Everyone has experience of dealing with calls centres and such one stop delivery centres. You end up talking to people who have not got the knowledge or skills to deal with a massive variety of queries. I suspect this will mean people on the phones can’t give the information people need.
“This is not about improving what we do, it is about cutting costs and it will mean worse services, and the implications for staff are that it will lead to significant job losses.”
The council says all staff involved will be consulted and there will be a marketing campaign to introduce the new service.