HALF a million pounds could be invested by Cheshire West and Chester Council in one stop shops for Chester and Ellesmere Port.Š
A meeting of the council's shadow Executive on Wednesday (October 15) is due to be told by customer services portfolio holder Cllr Myles Hogg (Con, Ledsham & Willaston) that if it agrees suggestions for the council's future ''face-to-face contact'' arrangements, one stop shops will need be created “notably in Chester, Ellesmere Port and the rural areas around Farndon and Malpas and Tarvin and Tarporley”.
Cllr Hogg believes all residents should be within 15 minutes drive time of a one stop shop with the locations also being chosen to take account of public transport routes.Š
Each one stop shop would eventually be in a permanent location, open either part time or full time although Cllr Hogg says mobile arrangements may be needed in the short and medium term.Š
The shops would provide self service areas for information and application forms, help with services available on the council's website, access to key specialists such as planning and benefits officers and private offices for confidential discussions.Š
Not all one stop shops would accept cash payments but Cllr Hogg says a network of neighbourhood payment outlets will be maintained to provide for these.
In smaller neighbourhoods or villages, he believes there should be a s eries of neighbourhood access centres with services varying from locality to locality including help with transactions available on the council's website, community meeting facilities, community shops or post offices and possibly clinics or surgeries.
Cllr Hogg suggests the £500,000 allocation would enable one stop shops to open in Chester and Ellesmere Port as close to April 1, 2009 as possible.Š
He believes the cost of shops for Farndon and Malpas and Tarvin and Tarporley would be likely to be lower.Š
Cllr Hogg accepts that although the shops in Chester and Ellesmere Port would enable a range of services to be delivered, they would not be fully functional for at least five years.Š
Pointing out that significant regeneration is taking place in both towns, he is recommending that the new council looks at locations for the next one to five years in order to provide facilities in the short and medium term while developing a longer term strategy.Š
"How easily and effectively customers can access the council is one of the key factors in determining how the council is viewed by residents," believes Cllr Hogg.
Although increasingly customers choose to use the web and telephone over traditional face to face or postal access, he says face to face contact ''remains important for some residents and for some services.''Š
Other local authorities, he says, have developed one stop shops in key locations which provide comprehensive ''but not=2 0necessarily exhaustive access" to the full range of council activities.Š
Some of these premises are located in retail locations while others are included with libraries or other council facilities.Š
"The delivery of one stop shops in Chester and Ellesmere Port by day one will be a significant undertaking,'' he warns.
Possible delays could arise from property negotiations, information technology issues and the recruitment of staff.Š
"However by the end of year one, the delivery of all current face to face services will be possible in some way and services across all one stop shops should have increased,'' he says.Š
His recommendations are up for discussion at a meeting of the executive on Wednesday evening.Š