Benefit fears ‘clogging up’ switchboard

thisisoxfordshire: Board member for customer services Val Smith Board member for customer services Val Smith

WORRIED customers are clogging up city council call centres after changes to housing and council tax benefits were announced.

Oxford City Council has seen the number of calls to its contact centre rise sharply in recent months, leading to increased pressure on officers.

Critics say some callers to the council’s main 249811 number fail to get through, while others are given seven options to choose from, which they find too confusing.

New computer servers will now be installed to help the system cope.

Council chief executive Peter Sloman said concerns about Government changes to benefits had contributed to the increase.

He said: “We’ve seen about a 10 per cent increase in the number of raw inquiries coming into the centres.

“In the long term we want to drive that down, but when we look at next year’s budget I think there’s going to be a bit of pressure.”

Mr Sloman said any overspend on customer services this year would be absorbed in the council’s budget.

He said: “I am confident that by the end of the year there will be no overspend.”

Lib Dem group leader Jean Fooks said she and colleagues had had dozens of complaints about the council number.

She said: “I’m pleased to hear that they are beginning to see that this business of having seven options is really not friendly.”

Board member for customer services Val Smith said the council was putting in new servers and retraining staff to deal with issues.

Mrs Smith said: “We have had many more calls than we have had in the past, and consequently, we have discovered the server we have for the phones isn’t big enough. We’re going to put another two in, and that’s happening soon so that will help the situation.”

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She said when the council moved to one main phone number from 11 different departmental contacts several years ago, customer service staff from each department only had expertise in one area.

She said: “Over the summer we’ve been training everybody so they can know about everything. That’s an awful lot of information to take in, but eventually, when we have them all trained up, we will be able to reduce the number of options.”

Comments (3)

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2:21pm Sat 15 Sep 12

Myron Blatz says...

Think many people in Oxford will miss not being told about special offers on empty Council garages, or the wide range of other options - especially when using the 0800 and other low-cost numbers which aren't free to use on mobile phones.
Think many people in Oxford will miss not being told about special offers on empty Council garages, or the wide range of other options - especially when using the 0800 and other low-cost numbers which aren't free to use on mobile phones. Myron Blatz
  • Score: -4

7:22pm Sat 15 Sep 12

xjohnx says...

I expect all the scaremongering is taking its toll.

I do wish the anti's would tell the truth, instead of trying to manipulate public opinion with scare stories.
I expect all the scaremongering is taking its toll. I do wish the anti's would tell the truth, instead of trying to manipulate public opinion with scare stories. xjohnx
  • Score: -7

5:45pm Sun 16 Sep 12

ger elttil OX2 0EJ says...

xjohnx wrote:
I expect all the scaremongering is taking its toll.

I do wish the anti's would tell the truth, instead of trying to manipulate public opinion with scare stories.
The truth is that the LHA will not meet current rents, forcing people to do whatever to get the extra money, or risk being evicted. But where do they go as there are no council homes for them. The council making up £200 a month to cover the shortfall has to be cheaper than £100 a night in the hotels that they will be forced to put the homeless.
[quote][p][bold]xjohnx[/bold] wrote: I expect all the scaremongering is taking its toll. I do wish the anti's would tell the truth, instead of trying to manipulate public opinion with scare stories.[/p][/quote]The truth is that the LHA will not meet current rents, forcing people to do whatever to get the extra money, or risk being evicted. But where do they go as there are no council homes for them. The council making up £200 a month to cover the shortfall has to be cheaper than £100 a night in the hotels that they will be forced to put the homeless. ger elttil OX2 0EJ
  • Score: -56

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