By Bill Heaney
Councillors will consider a proposal later this month to expand One Stop Shop services into all Council libraries.
Officials believe it will save £150,000 council taxpayers a year, but say nothing about redundancies or job losses.
The Council currently has three centres providing walk-in support to residents with Council queries – Alexandria Library, Church Street offices in Dumbarton and the Clydebank Town Centre Office.
Under this new proposal the One Stop Shop team would join with Library Services and provide this assistance in all eight library branches.
The change would mean residents in places like Faifley, Duntocher, Parkhall and Balloch would be able to access citizen services much closer to home without having to travel to town centres.
However, it would mean a decrease in what’s called “footfall” in some town centres which the Council have been trying for years now to promote.
In fact, the introduction of a One Stop Shop in Dumbarton has dramatically reduced “foot fall” and almost choked the town centre with parked cars.
This is expected to get worse when the new Lidl supermarket open in Castle Street on the site which planning officials recommended planning permission should not be granted.
Their professional recommendation was ridden roughshod over by the SNP administration who gave Lidl the green light to go ahead.
The new set-up, if approved, would also increase the hours available to support residents with enquiries from 105 hours per week to 287 per week.
In addition residents would be able to get face-to-face support at evenings and on Saturday mornings.
The Council claim the change has already been piloted successfully in Alexandria where “Citizen Services” employees have been based in the library since April 2018.
This proposal goes further in that it recommends librarians handle residents with complaints about other matters, although the official pitch gives no indication what these services would be.
The language in the pitch is obviously designed to soft soap residents and employees into accepting the new proposals at face value – “Both residents and staff have found it a positive move with a welcoming and calm environment to visit and work in. In addition the move has helped improve the library’s offer to the public and increase footfall to the branch at a time when visitor numbers across the country are seeing a decline,” their media release states.
Many people – including the shopkeepers and business owners in Dumbarton High Street would dispute that, and there is no indication on the surface at least that much has happened to lift the neglected look off Main Street and the Fountain area of Alexandria.
In a further change the Council says the One Stop Shop team would relocate from the Clydebank Town Centre Office to the newly refurbished Clydebank Library which is 500m away. There they will be able to provide frontline advice and assistance, and arrange appointments with more specialist services. The Clydebank Town Centre Office on Sylvania Way South would continue to operate as normal for all other services such as Housing, Registrars and the Municipal Bank.
By bringing the One Stop Shop team into libraries and training all staff to do both functions, any duplication could be removed and staff time fully focused on serving the needs of residents. This, it is claimed, would create an annual saving to local residents of £150,000 per year. There is no mention of job losses or redundancies. The change would, the Council say, be implemented over 15 months to minimise the disruption to employees and give plenty of time for training.
Malcolm Bennie, Strategic Lead for Communications, Culture, Communities and Facilities, said: “This change would dramatically increase the number of venues that residents could get face-to-face support in West Dunbartonshire from three to eight, and increase the hours provided per week from 105 to 287 hours a week. It would also give us a great opportunity for residents to engage with our library services at the same time, which in turn helps increase footfall, book issues and literacy in general.
“We’ve seen already the benefits in Alexandria where we know residents are engaging with the service who didn’t previously. It would help make our libraries more of a community hub and keep them relevant and busy for the future. In addition the change would help generate a significant saving that can help the Council to protect frontline services as much as possible in future years.
“It remains a proposal though, and it is now for Councillors to decide if this is the best way forward for these service areas and the residents of West Dunbartonshire.”