Staff to be consulted on Amber Valley council office closures

Stock picture.
Stock picture.

Amber Valley offices in three towns across the borough could be set to close under new plans drawn up by council chiefs.

The offices - in Alfreton, Belper and Heanor - are currently used by residents to pay council tax and as a general advice and support service.

A proposal to begin a consultation on the proposed move with staff and unions was approved at a full council meeting at Ripley Town Hall on Wednesday night.

Speaking in favour of the proposal, council leader Kevin Buttery said: “We are faced with the complete withdrawal of the revenue support grant by 2020/21.

“We therefore have to spend within our means and look carefully at how we can reduce our operational costs.

“These offices currently cost this council £1.10 for every £1 in council tax it receives via this method and if we closed them it would save us £194,000 per year.”

The consultation will set out three options - to leave the offices as they are, to keep them partially open or to close them all completely.

Under the third option, post office payment cards would be issued to those residents who have a disability or do not have a bank account so they can pay close to home.

Responding for the opposition Labour group, Chris Emmas-Williams said the offices were not just a collection service but were Amber Valley’s ‘face in the community’.

Another councillor, Labour’s Paul Jones, said he felt that if the offices were to close it could be the ‘death knell’ for these towns.

He added that the option to keep the offices partially open was the only one the Labour group could conceivably support.

The council also considered eight letters from traders, associations and individuals commenting on the proposal, petitions against it totalling 1,138 signatures, and a survey of the office’s customers.

The proposal was carried with all Conservative councillors voting for and all Labour councillors voting against.

Feedback from the staff consultation will be considered at the full council meeting on January 25.