Call for Falkirk Council’s hubs to open for bill payments at lunchtimes

Falkirk councillors have voted to ensure that people can pay their bills at lunchtime in any of the three council’s hubs.

By Kirsty Paterson
Friday, 27th September 2019, 11:29 am
Denny Hub in Carronbank House
Denny Hub in Carronbank House

Independent councillor John McLuckie said several of his constituents had been angered to find they had made the effort of going to pay a bill at one of the council’s hubs, only to find it would not take payments between 12.30pm and 1.30pm.

He said: “People are using their lunchbreaks and going to the trouble of going up there and finding it closed.

“What we have are three hubs who are not making it accessible at the most convenient times for people.”

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Mr McLuckie also said many people had told him they had visited a hub, only to be sent home to phone the relevant department.

He said the whole system of hubs needed to be looked at and asked the Scrutiny Committee to look at their impact and effectiveness.

Members of the Labour and Conservative groups backed Mr McLuckie’s motion, asking council to look at allowing hubs to take payments at lunctimes.

Grangemouth councillor Allyson Black said: “Surely we aspire to do things better all the time – if this will allow workers trying to pay bills at lunchtime, what’s wrong with that?”

Members of the SNP administration, however, were unhappy at the request, with housing spokesperson Gordon Hughes saying cash payments had fallen greatly in recent years.

Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said having the payment desk closed at lunchtimes freed up staff to deal with more complex cases they were increasingly faced with.

She said: “There is now a wider variety of ways to pay – people can go into a post office and pay, which has much longer opening hours and is more convenient.

“Once the alternatives are explained to people they are happy with that.”

SNP councillor David Alexander said this decision went beyond councillors’ remit and was effectively “filling in timesheets for the staff and interfering in the running of the offices” and was totally unacceptable.

But Conservative leader Lynn Munro backed the motion.

She said: “I have been to the hubs – I have even driven people from Bo’ness to the hub. This is a public face of the council and it’s incumbent on us to make sure that the service they get is a good one.”

The three hubs – one each in Denny, Falkirk and Grangemouth – replace the council’s one-stop shops and provide a range of advice including housing payments, welfare benefits advice, housing options and debt and budgeting advice.

Director of corporate and housing services Stuart Ritchie has been asked to report back to council on the change and what it will cost to implement.