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Council working hard to make services even more accessible for residents

14 December 2022

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West Devon Borough Council has pledged to continue making it as easy as possible for residents to contact the Council, thanks to a blend of modern technology, office appointments and home visits.

At a meeting of the Council's Hub Committee on 13 December, Councillors heard how the Council is making it easier for customers to interact with the Council seven days a week.

The Council's online forms, portals and digital channels make it easy for those online to interact with the authority at the touch of a button. Thanks to more and more Council processes being available online, more staff are freed up to support those who can't use the online services and need more support.

The Council is working towards creating an appointment based system (similar to the existing planning service) across key services such as Council Tax, Housing and Housing Benefits. This work should be completed before the end of 2023.

Home visits with the Council's Localities Officers are also available for residents who need additional support.

The Council's philosophy is to be a "Digital First" authority. That means that in the first instance, the Council is always open, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for digital transactions and service requests. However, the term "Digital First" does not mean that other routes of communication "come second". Those who need further help beyond the digital services will be able to get it.

The online processes will ask for the same information and generally provide a quicker and more convenient way of interacting with the Council.

Cllr Ric Cheadle, Lead Member for Communications and Accessibility, said: "For the vast majority of people, our website, online chat, messenger service and email are the quickest and easiest way to communicate with us. That will be convenient for many. Yet that doesn't mean that other routes of communication will come second.

"We're mindful not to ignore those who struggle with, or don't have access to, our digital services. We will always do what we can to support all of our residents, which is why we have started home visits for those residents who need additional support. This will be used to deal with processes as well as to see if there is other help for those in higher need. The appointment system will also mean that those who need an appointment will be able to get an appointment.

"All of our avenues of communication and interaction all feed into the same system, so we can deal with your enquiry efficiently, however you contact us. Online platforms have taken the strain off more traditional methods, with call centre wait times reduced as a result."

Work is ongoing to make other further improvements. A review of the Council's contact centre has demonstrated improvements in terms of the number of calls answered, improved answering times and reduced call waiting times.

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