New ways of working mean better services from Winchester City Council

Winchester City Council will consider how new ways of working and the use of technology can provide better customer service for residents of the district, at its meeting on the 19 July 2006.

The proposals consider how officers can take services out into the district and work flexibly, therefore needing less space in Winchester itself. The City Council currently occupies a number of sites across the city and Cabinet's recommendation to bring staff together on one site could bring huge savings estimated at up to £1.5m.

A feasibility study supported the redevelopment of the Colebrook Street site as offering the best solution for providing accessible public services in Winchester, creating one reception for all services instead of the current three.

"We are always looking at ways we can improve customer service and obtain better value for money, give a better back-up to our Customer Service Centre, and make more efficient use of space," said Leader of the Council, Cllr George Beckett. "We are committed to our staff spending more time working locally in communities across the district, with fewer in offices in Winchester.

"The opportunity to provide residents with easier to access services will be of huge benefit across the District. The redevelopment of the Colebrook Street site will enable us to create sustainable council offices that promote even better customer service," he added. "It would not be a wise investment to lay out good money on patching up our existing offices that are no longer fit for purpose.

"Cabinet believes that having those staff who need an office base on one site is the best way to achieve this, and it gives us an opportunity to reinforce the Guildhall area as a focus for public services. It would also help us to reduce the amount of energy we use and the impact we have on the environment," he added.

Before any detailed plans are produced a Master Plan for the area will be prepared to test how development can fit in with and improve the immediate area, including Abbey Gardens and the Wessex Hotel. This would strengthen the link between this area and the Cathedral, which has its own Close Plan. The changes proposed for The Broadway in the Silver Hill development will also be reflected.

"With all that's proposed we have a great chance to improve this part of the city," said Cllr Beckett.

It is estimated that with the sale or lease of some of the offices currently occupied by the council, the cost of redeveloping the Colebrook Street site would be significantly less than refurbishing buildings that will continue to deteriorate.

Cllr Beckett added that "A modern development using sustainable construction and materials would reduce the running costs considerably compared with the refurbishment option."