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Council offices in two towns set to close due to drop in number of users

West Norfolk council is launching its own lottery. Picture: Ian Burt.

West Norfolk council is launching its own lottery. Picture: Ian Burt.

Archant © 2011

Council offices in two towns look set to close because few people use them.

West Norfolk council’s offices in Valentine Road, Hunstanton and the Priory Centre in Downham Market are currently open two days a week.

But the number of people visiting them has declined steeply since cash office and enquiry services were closed down in 2011, says a report to councillors.

Now the authority’s ruling cabinet has agreed proposals to close the offices for good and re-deploy two staff members to its head office in Chapel Street, King’s Lynn.

The report said: “With the introduction of digital services, the numbers of customers visiting the area offices has reduced significantly.

“Traditionally, the main reasons customers visited the area offices were in respect of housing and benefit enquiries.

“Both of these services have now been fully digitalised, meaning customers are able to make applications to go on the housing register, apply for benefit, report a change of circumstances as well as upload supporting evidence online, negating the need to visit the offices in person.”

The report says Freebridge Community Housing and Job Centre Plus both lease space in the offices.

But it adds that both organisations are planning to withdraw their staff from both sites next month.

Both offices receive around 25 visits a day, says the report. It says more than half do so to buy liners for food caddies.

But households now no longer need the liners, after changes to the way waste is recycled allow carrier bags to be used.

That means visitors to the two offices will reduce by more than half, the report says.

Council leader Brian Long said: “The evidence base is very much that the largest percentage of people go there to buy bin bags and we won’t be selling bin bags any more because we can use any bag in the food recycling scheme.”

The report says keeping the offices open is not good use of staff time, when its call centre in King’s Lynn is far busier.

The council leases Priory House and will have to renegotiate terms with owner Norfolk County Council or sub let its space.

The borough owns the Hunstanton office and the report says other organisations may move into the site.

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