Senior council officials have promised to remember people who do not use the internet as more services move online.
Brighton and Hove City Council’s parking services are already online and other council services are shifting to digital – or sometimes phone – as council offices remain closed to the public.
The customer service centre at Hove Town Hall is still closed unless people are picking up lateral flow tests to check for the coronavirus.
The joint Labour opposition leader, Councillor Carmen Appich, shared her concerns when the council’s Policy and Resources (Recovery) Sub-Committee met on Thursday (20 January). She said that she was still receiving complaints about access and phone waiting times.
Delays to parking permits have been a concern for many councillors since last summer, with IT and delivery issues blamed as parking services went online.
There is a free phone outside Hove Town Hall for anyone wanting to speak to a member of council staff but Councillor Appich said that she had not been able to find it.
She said: “I have concerns about the customer services team. I still get quite a bit of complaining as a ward councillor about the lack of accessibility.
“I do believe the telephone service has been improved. I get fewer complaints that people can’t get through when they ring in.”
One of the council’s most senior officials, Nick Hibberd, the executive director for the economy, environment and culture, said that the council was working on responding to customers’ needs as the digital shift continued.
Mr Hibberd said: “When we reopen parts of the customer access points, we want to do so in such a way that promotes support for the most vulnerable, support for those struggling with digital services, but also continues this journey which has been successful with high percentages of residents accessing services successfully online.
“We are looking actively at what we do around that in relation to Barts House and Hove Town Hall.”
The council’s chief executive Geoff Raw said that the council would not forget the people who could not access digital services.
The pandemic had accelerated the move to online services, he said, resulting in a “huge change” in how the council operated.
He said: “We’re very conscious of the fact that not everyone is able to access digitally, so we do recognise that is a real issue.
“This is very high on our agenda to make sure we’re very aware of how residents and businesses are accessing our services.”
Sharing figures from parking services, Mr Raw said that 99 per cent of applicants bought their parking permits online in the past year.
Almost 38,000 residents’ parking permits were issued in the year to last July.
When it came to parking fines, 95 per cent were paid online, with 88 per cent of appeals lodged online.
Green councillor Hannah Clare said that the free telephone was near the entrance of Hove Town Hall under the canopy – and she shared a photograph of it during the meeting.
She also said that waiting times had reduced on phone lines, adding: “We’ve put more into the idea of rather than trying to get people off the phone as quickly as possible, being on the phone to help people.”
Councillor Clare said that there was still some pressure on parking services. And the Parking Annual Report for 2020-21, published earlier this month, said that the transition of the service into the My Account system had experienced some problems, with parking services and IT staff working together to try to resolve the issues.
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