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Future provision for Pembrokeshire council customer service centres discussed

A TOWN council may step in to support customer contact services in the south of the county as the plan to close centres moves forward.

Pembrokeshire County Council closed four of its customer service centres last year with Haverfordwest and Pembroke Dock remaining open as a “channel shift” to digital engagement was focused on during 2019-2022.

However, the pandemic forced the closure of both centres and council was “wrestling” with the next steps, with cabinet member for IT and transformation Cllr Neil Prior adding “it doesn’t feel like the right thing to reopen the customer service centre to then close it again.”

Cllr Prior was speaking at Tuesday’s (November 24) policy and pre-decision overview and scrutiny committee where options for the future provision of customer services in the two towns were put forward.

This includes using the new Glan-yr-Afon library in Haverfordwest, with enhanced provision in County Hall, and providing a reduced provision out of Pembroke Dock Library or in partnership with the town council, or a combination.

An option to stop all customer service centre provision in Pembroke Dock, as previously approved by cabinet, remains.

Head of procurement and customer services, Paul Ashley-Jones said that a “very positive approach” had come from Pembroke Dock Town Council last week which could see some functions provided from the Town Hall, with others also available at the library, and a potential model would be developed.

“It’s been a really positive discussion,” he added, with the town council already having “stepped in” to help while Argyle Street was closed.

Cllr Prior highlighted the increase in My Account and Penfro, digital assistant, use with customers encouraged to “shift” from face to face or telephone enquires for online answers to allow for the “more meaningful conversations with customers that really need us.”

The committee highlighted the need for privacy for some customers, particularly those with housing or revenue problems, which was acknowledged by Mr Ashley-Jones, with the County Hall reception having private rooms available for discussions.

The committee favoured the option of housing services to go to County Hall and other services to the library in Haverfordwest as well as discussing further the proposals with Pembroke Dock Town Council.

Costing of the options, in light of an “extremely large funding ap next year” would be carried out along with feasibility assessments before any final decisions were made, the committee heard.

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