Council to reopen headquarters amid phoneline criticisms

Scottish Borders Council’s headquarters at Newtown St Boswells is set to reopen to the public after concerns were raised over long delays getting advice on telephone helplines.

By Paul Kelly
Thursday, 5th May 2022, 10:49 am
Updated Thursday, 5th May 2022, 10:49 am
Scottish Borders Council's Newtown St Boswells headquarters.

The vast majority of council employees started working from home at the outset of the pandemic and as restrictions were gradually lifted a blended working approach has been adopted.

But council headquarters has remained closed to the public since March 2020.

Now one woman has revealed how she drove to the local authority’s base after experiencing waits of 30 minutes to get a response on the phone.

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On arrival at headquarters she found a note on security gates saying the premises was closed to the public – and directing her to call the same phoneline number.

Today a spokesperson for the council said final arrangements for the headquarters reopening were taking place and apologised for the telephone delays, while emphasising that advice can also be accessed through the council’s website.

The woman who made the fruitless journey to Newtown St Boswells countered that argument, saying: “It should be kept in mind that the Borders has a vast amount of retired and elderly people living here and many do not have use or knowledge of the internet.

“I drove to Newtown St Boswells head office to get advice because I thought it would be faster than the wait on the telephone line, but I was only to find a notice attached to the security gates saying the building was closed to the public and to phone this number… the one no-one answers.

“There must be many people in the Borders who are wondering when normal service will be resumed.”

A spokesperson for Scottish Borders Council said: “Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic the vast majority of office-based staff have been working very successfully from home, and many continue to do so as part of blended working arrangements.

“This blended approach contributes towards a change to the way we operate, using technological solutions to reduce commuting and unnecessary travel, reducing carbon emissions and has proven to be effective in supporting communities throughout the pandemic.

“We are currently finalising arrangements for the reopening of our Newtown St Boswells office to the public, however a number of contact centres and library contact centres have been open for some time to support members of the public who wish to engage with us face-to-face.

“We apologise for any delays experienced in contacting the council through our phonelines, which are exceptionally busy at this time, and we would like to reiterate that a wide range of services can be contacted directly online through our website, where a variety of requests can also be logged and issues reported.”