County's call centre hub set for shake-up

Tewkesbury Admag: Jobs threat at Worcestershire Hub call centre Jobs threat at Worcestershire Hub call centre

THE days of a local person answering the phone when someone calls the council could soon be coming to an end.

Council chiefs are considering outsourcing some staff at the Worcestershire Hub’s call centre – which answers calls to Worcester city, Worcestershire county, Malvern Hills and Wychavon district councils.

They are keen to stress that no decision has yet been made about the future of the service, with one option some staff could be transferred to a new 'Centre of Excellence' created in Wychavon.

The revelation has left the hub’s 50 call takers fearing for the future of their jobs. At the moment they answer thousands of calls on issues such as potholes, council tax, school admissions and benefits.

Now council chiefs in Wychavon are inviting “expressions of interest” in running aspects of the service.

The announcement, which was revealed to workers on Thursday, came just two days after Worcestershire County Council admitted every service was being examined to see if it can be hived off to outside organisations.

Bosses are trying to save at least £90 million by 2015/16 and are hoping some areas can be commissioned out to get people off the wage bill.

The contact centre is based in Perry Wood Walk in Worcester and was swamped with 677,000 calls last year, the highest figure since the hub launched in 2009.

The reason for the shake-up is because Wychavon District Council is exploring options for the future of the revenues and benefits service, which it manages on behalf of councils in south Worcestershire.

The contact centre also takes calls from the revenue and benefits customers, and bosses say it is “likely call handling for this service” will be included in any changes.

Rachel Hill, County Hall’s head of customer services, said: “The Worcestershire Hub shared service deals with customer enquiries over the phone and in person on behalf of the South Worcestershire revenues and benefits service.

“It is likely that call handling for this service will be included within the scope of this work.

“Whilst this would impact on staff in the Worcestershire Hub Shared Service, no member of staff has been placed at risk and details regarding the changes, when they may occur and the impact are not yet available.”

The move has prompted warnings staff must be protected from any potential handover.

Councillor Adrian Gregson, the leader of Worcester’s Labour group, said: “The danger is that in the rush to save money the service could plummet – we don’t want to see that, nor do we want to see any cuts in numbers.”

Councillor David Thain, the county council’s cabinet member responsible for the workforce, said: “We will look at all options to improve services over the next few years.”

Comments (17)

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10:12am Mon 22 Oct 12

Peter WR5 says...

The sooner that a unitary authority is created to take over and run the civic affairs of this county the better.
The sooner that a unitary authority is created to take over and run the civic affairs of this county the better. Peter WR5

10:29am Mon 22 Oct 12

broadwas says...

When will the Council learn that call centres (Hubs?) don't work. They are a defensive moat, not a channel for access! Far easier to publish a list of telephone numbers/email addresses of managers in each department and make them respond to the people who pay their salaries directly within a reasonable time frame.
When will the Council learn that call centres (Hubs?) don't work. They are a defensive moat, not a channel for access! Far easier to publish a list of telephone numbers/email addresses of managers in each department and make them respond to the people who pay their salaries directly within a reasonable time frame. broadwas

10:38am Mon 22 Oct 12

WJS1950 says...

broadwas wrote:
When will the Council learn that call centres (Hubs?) don't work. They are a defensive moat, not a channel for access! Far easier to publish a list of telephone numbers/email addresses of managers in each department and make them respond to the people who pay their salaries directly within a reasonable time frame.
The Hub appears to be in place to discourage people from trying to make direct contact with council staff, enabling them to be protected and be out of touch with the real world. Every time I've contacted the Hub and asked to speak to staff in various departments, they have been defensive and reluctant to put me through, but having said that, on the occasions they have relented and managed to put me through to these departments, the people I wanted to speak to are never available! And the mannerisms of the Hub is one of arrogance, rudeness and unhelpfulness.
[quote][p][bold]broadwas[/bold] wrote: When will the Council learn that call centres (Hubs?) don't work. They are a defensive moat, not a channel for access! Far easier to publish a list of telephone numbers/email addresses of managers in each department and make them respond to the people who pay their salaries directly within a reasonable time frame.[/p][/quote]The Hub appears to be in place to discourage people from trying to make direct contact with council staff, enabling them to be protected and be out of touch with the real world. Every time I've contacted the Hub and asked to speak to staff in various departments, they have been defensive and reluctant to put me through, but having said that, on the occasions they have relented and managed to put me through to these departments, the people I wanted to speak to are never available! And the mannerisms of the Hub is one of arrogance, rudeness and unhelpfulness. WJS1950

10:57am Mon 22 Oct 12

broadwas says...

Hiving off functions to outside bodies may reduce the headcount but don't assume it will be any cheaper. Herefordshire out sourced the Registrar functon and it just didn't work or attract competent staff. And what about all those P.F.I's
Hiving off functions to outside bodies may reduce the headcount but don't assume it will be any cheaper. Herefordshire out sourced the Registrar functon and it just didn't work or attract competent staff. And what about all those P.F.I's broadwas

11:00am Mon 22 Oct 12

uptonX says...

As said above, "the hub" was a step backwards. It certainly isolated the council staff from council tax payers and I think many people just gave up (which paradoxily makes it look like the hub does a good job).
As said above, "the hub" was a step backwards. It certainly isolated the council staff from council tax payers and I think many people just gave up (which paradoxily makes it look like the hub does a good job). uptonX

11:16am Mon 22 Oct 12

Jabbadad says...

i have to disagree with the generalisation of the critical comments above. When I have frequently contacted the Hub, my civil questions / requests have met with civil / professional replies.
I have to agree that with the Hub coming into being the managers of departments seem to have gone to ground, and I can only assume that the call centre staff are told to firstly try to answer the enquiry, (often asking for the incorrect department)
The days when we could speak to heads of departments are long gone, and with these again stupid Tory ideas of saying a call centre can be anywhere in the world, tells me that they (the Tories such as Coun Thain) need to come into the real world of providing service to those who actually pay their inflated (according to best value) allowances for their part time input. If ever there was a case of NOT BEST VALUE it would have to be the little emperors (politicians) who strut the corridors of County Hall issuing orders to a staff that are actually totally superior in knowledge, and the politicians who have been elected by the public and hopefully will be thrown out at the next round of elections while there is still a thread of professional organisation left in local government.
Multi-National companies had to learn that moving call-centres away from the core business DID NOT WORK and they have back-tracked to reinstate the call-centres to where the customers (paymasters) wish to find them.
The statements as to outsourcing are just a Tory cover for PRIVATISATION.
Yes Brown & Co sold our Gold but the Tories are selling our very SOULS.
i have to disagree with the generalisation of the critical comments above. When I have frequently contacted the Hub, my civil questions / requests have met with civil / professional replies. I have to agree that with the Hub coming into being the managers of departments seem to have gone to ground, and I can only assume that the call centre staff are told to firstly try to answer the enquiry, (often asking for the incorrect department) The days when we could speak to heads of departments are long gone, and with these again stupid Tory ideas of saying a call centre can be anywhere in the world, tells me that they (the Tories such as Coun Thain) need to come into the real world of providing service to those who actually pay their inflated (according to best value) allowances for their part time input. If ever there was a case of NOT BEST VALUE it would have to be the little emperors (politicians) who strut the corridors of County Hall issuing orders to a staff that are actually totally superior in knowledge, and the politicians who have been elected by the public and hopefully will be thrown out at the next round of elections while there is still a thread of professional organisation left in local government. Multi-National companies had to learn that moving call-centres away from the core business DID NOT WORK and they have back-tracked to reinstate the call-centres to where the customers (paymasters) wish to find them. The statements as to outsourcing are just a Tory cover for PRIVATISATION. Yes Brown & Co sold our Gold but the Tories are selling our very SOULS. Jabbadad

11:31am Mon 22 Oct 12

Frank13 says...

When I was a councillor I always found the Hub staff both polite and helpful whether they recognised my name (if I gave it) or not. So I was reassured that they treat everyone fairly.

Most local issues don't need to tie up manager's time. Indeed, the Hub allows time to concentrate on those which do. It works and as it is cost-effective allows councils to protect local services.
When I was a councillor I always found the Hub staff both polite and helpful whether they recognised my name (if I gave it) or not. So I was reassured that they treat everyone fairly. Most local issues don't need to tie up manager's time. Indeed, the Hub allows time to concentrate on those which do. It works and as it is cost-effective allows councils to protect local services. Frank13

11:34am Mon 22 Oct 12

skychip says...

Have always found the people who answer the phone at the Hub very helpful and my concerns have been dealt with efficiently.
Have always found the people who answer the phone at the Hub very helpful and my concerns have been dealt with efficiently. skychip

12:42pm Mon 22 Oct 12

The answer is 42 says...

677000 calls to 50 workers doing a 37 hour week works out at about 8 calls an hour. Even if they are all part time 16 calls an hour isn't very many. I've found varying degrees of capability, some are hopeless, others try hard. But it sound like a waste of money - I'd like to phone the people I want to talk to, not a 'call centre' employee who knows very little.
677000 calls to 50 workers doing a 37 hour week works out at about 8 calls an hour. Even if they are all part time 16 calls an hour isn't very many. I've found varying degrees of capability, some are hopeless, others try hard. But it sound like a waste of money - I'd like to phone the people I want to talk to, not a 'call centre' employee who knows very little. The answer is 42

1:11pm Mon 22 Oct 12

brooksider says...

Would anyone trust the Council leaders to negotiate a contract?

Thanks to their keen bargaining skills with Capita, we taxpayers are paying more for our library books than buying them from Amazon.
Would anyone trust the Council leaders to negotiate a contract? Thanks to their keen bargaining skills with Capita, we taxpayers are paying more for our library books than buying them from Amazon. brooksider

1:15pm Mon 22 Oct 12

take a deep breath says...

The BBC news today stated that 10,000 folks more each month are now claiming working benefits and therefore other related benefits....also more EU persons are now residing in Worcester....no wonder The Hub is under fire when all these folks need information regarding housing benefits etc etc......All services are under ever increasing pressure to respond and with less folks working and claiming all sorts of benefits is it any wonder The Hub is under increased phone pressure?
The BBC news today stated that 10,000 folks more each month are now claiming working benefits and therefore other related benefits....also more EU persons are now residing in Worcester....no wonder The Hub is under fire when all these folks need information regarding housing benefits etc etc......All services are under ever increasing pressure to respond and with less folks working and claiming all sorts of benefits is it any wonder The Hub is under increased phone pressure? take a deep breath

3:32pm Mon 22 Oct 12

More Tea Vicar says...

take a deep breath wrote:
The BBC news today stated that 10,000 folks more each month are now claiming working benefits and therefore other related benefits....also more EU persons are now residing in Worcester....no wonder The Hub is under fire when all these folks need information regarding housing benefits etc etc......All services are under ever increasing pressure to respond and with less folks working and claiming all sorts of benefits is it any wonder The Hub is under increased phone pressure?
I do wonder, when I see the number of books in the library in minority languages, the number of signs up in foreign languages, the tendency of minorities to have larger families....

...how much more demand do minorities and foreigners make on services than other people?

Quite a lot, I can imagine.
[quote][p][bold]take a deep breath[/bold] wrote: The BBC news today stated that 10,000 folks more each month are now claiming working benefits and therefore other related benefits....also more EU persons are now residing in Worcester....no wonder The Hub is under fire when all these folks need information regarding housing benefits etc etc......All services are under ever increasing pressure to respond and with less folks working and claiming all sorts of benefits is it any wonder The Hub is under increased phone pressure?[/p][/quote]I do wonder, when I see the number of books in the library in minority languages, the number of signs up in foreign languages, the tendency of minorities to have larger families.... ...how much more demand do minorities and foreigners make on services than other people? Quite a lot, I can imagine. More Tea Vicar

4:24pm Mon 22 Oct 12

pronstar says...

More Tea Vicar wrote:
take a deep breath wrote:
The BBC news today stated that 10,000 folks more each month are now claiming working benefits and therefore other related benefits....also more EU persons are now residing in Worcester....no wonder The Hub is under fire when all these folks need information regarding housing benefits etc etc......All services are under ever increasing pressure to respond and with less folks working and claiming all sorts of benefits is it any wonder The Hub is under increased phone pressure?
I do wonder, when I see the number of books in the library in minority languages, the number of signs up in foreign languages, the tendency of minorities to have larger families....

...how much more demand do minorities and foreigners make on services than other people?

Quite a lot, I can imagine.
Get a grip
[quote][p][bold]More Tea Vicar[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]take a deep breath[/bold] wrote: The BBC news today stated that 10,000 folks more each month are now claiming working benefits and therefore other related benefits....also more EU persons are now residing in Worcester....no wonder The Hub is under fire when all these folks need information regarding housing benefits etc etc......All services are under ever increasing pressure to respond and with less folks working and claiming all sorts of benefits is it any wonder The Hub is under increased phone pressure?[/p][/quote]I do wonder, when I see the number of books in the library in minority languages, the number of signs up in foreign languages, the tendency of minorities to have larger families.... ...how much more demand do minorities and foreigners make on services than other people? Quite a lot, I can imagine.[/p][/quote]Get a grip pronstar

9:05pm Mon 22 Oct 12

jamesbones says...

Although I've never phoned the hub I know that outsourcing is not the answer. At the moment the hub is answerable to the council in one way or another, whether the council is able to organise the hub in a useful way is another matter.
However if outsourced the contract would not doubt be poorly negotiated allowing a large degree of wiggle room for the outsourced company. As seen recently in the banking industry these contacts do go wrong leaving little comeback.
At least at the moment the people working on the hub are local people rather than a random call center.
Although I've never phoned the hub I know that outsourcing is not the answer. At the moment the hub is answerable to the council in one way or another, whether the council is able to organise the hub in a useful way is another matter. However if outsourced the contract would not doubt be poorly negotiated allowing a large degree of wiggle room for the outsourced company. As seen recently in the banking industry these contacts do go wrong leaving little comeback. At least at the moment the people working on the hub are local people rather than a random call center. jamesbones

9:45pm Mon 22 Oct 12

evanmow says...

ignorance is bliss...when people try and calculate the no. of calls taken against the no. of hours worked and feel that 8 calls an hour is 'simple' what they really need to know is that some of the calls - especially benefits are complex and long winded and cannot often be answered in a couple of minutes. As a local adviser I often have lengthy conversations with the hub regarding some of my clients and the calls often become very lengthy just because of the complexity of the claims. I have always found the hub staff to be most helpful and knowledgeable
ignorance is bliss...when people try and calculate the no. of calls taken against the no. of hours worked and feel that 8 calls an hour is 'simple' what they really need to know is that some of the calls - especially benefits are complex and long winded and cannot often be answered in a couple of minutes. As a local adviser I often have lengthy conversations with the hub regarding some of my clients and the calls often become very lengthy just because of the complexity of the claims. I have always found the hub staff to be most helpful and knowledgeable evanmow

12:44am Tue 23 Oct 12

Guy66 says...

The answer is 42 wrote:
677000 calls to 50 workers doing a 37 hour week works out at about 8 calls an hour. Even if they are all part time 16 calls an hour isn't very many. I've found varying degrees of capability, some are hopeless, others try hard. But it sound like a waste of money - I'd like to phone the people I want to talk to, not a 'call centre' employee who knows very little.
A little over 7 minutes a call if flat out and uber efficient. Not a lot of time to deal with potentially complex issues. However, my experience with the Hub has been lack lustre and a clear firewall for the management.

To Frank13; the external impression is not good, maybe the internal willingness and the 'stats' make it look great but this should be a service for the council tax payers. Several emails to the hub never answered, calls with promised follow up never followed up. In the end you find other methods to get the answers and avoid the bother.
[quote][p][bold]The answer is 42[/bold] wrote: 677000 calls to 50 workers doing a 37 hour week works out at about 8 calls an hour. Even if they are all part time 16 calls an hour isn't very many. I've found varying degrees of capability, some are hopeless, others try hard. But it sound like a waste of money - I'd like to phone the people I want to talk to, not a 'call centre' employee who knows very little.[/p][/quote]A little over 7 minutes a call if flat out and uber efficient. Not a lot of time to deal with potentially complex issues. However, my experience with the Hub has been lack lustre and a clear firewall for the management. To Frank13; the external impression is not good, maybe the internal willingness and the 'stats' make it look great but this should be a service for the council tax payers. Several emails to the hub never answered, calls with promised follow up never followed up. In the end you find other methods to get the answers and avoid the bother. Guy66

2:42pm Fri 26 Oct 12

Maggie Would says...

I have reported a particular local problem (regarding an inaccessible bus stop) to the hub at least three times. I have also spoken to my County Councillor about said problem. Action? Nothing, zilch, nada, rien, nichts, stuff all.
If I was the arms-folded type, I would go to the press.
I have reported a particular local problem (regarding an inaccessible bus stop) to the hub at least three times. I have also spoken to my County Councillor about said problem. Action? Nothing, zilch, nada, rien, nichts, stuff all. If I was the arms-folded type, I would go to the press. Maggie Would

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