Options for the future of Witney Town Centre Shop
The purpose of this report is to review the usage on the Town Centre Shop in light of changing customer preferences for receiving Council Services and consider future options.
It is recommended that Cabinet:-
(a) Ask officers to work up an interim solution to relocate staff as part of the Agile Working project to the Town Centre Shop pending a longer term review of demand for face to face customer contact points and finalisation of the agile office outcomes; and
(b) Ask officers to utilise the existing office footprint where possible with minimum refurbishment costs until the review is completed.
Members received a report from the Group Manager for Resident Services which detailed a review of the usage on the Town Centre Shop (TCS) in Witney, in light of changing customer preferences for receiving Council Services and consider future options.
The report explained the current face to face customer access points delivered by the Council and highlighted the changes that had taken place with regards to demand, alternative ways that the public accessed services and the impact of the pandemic on direct customer service. It was noted that prior to the pandemic, footfall had decreased for both customer service functions and visitor information at the town centre shop. A graph detailing the footfall at the Witney TCS, between the period January 2017 to March 2020 was provided at Annex A to the report. A graph demonstrating the weekly footfall from December 2020 was attached as Annex B to the report.
The report outlined a number of options for the future use of the building and these were set out at section 3.1 of the report, followed by a more detailed synopsis of each option. Cabinet members could choose to support the recommendations as laid out, approve one of the other options listed or propose an alternative way forwards.
The Cabinet Member for Customer Delivery, Councillor Doughty introduced the report and highlighted the key influences that had impacted on the TCS in recent years. She assured the meeting that all options had been discussed at length with officers and had led to robust debate amongst the Cabinet members. Councillor Doughty had visited the TCS with some Cabinet colleagues and had seen the refurbishment needed for themselves. She therefore proposed the recommendation that officers be asked to look at relocating staff to the TCS as part of the Agile Working project but keep the TCS open to the public. She felt this would allow the Council to retain this customer service option whilst a longer term review of the demand for face to face customer contact points was completed.
The recommendation was seconded by Councillor Davies.
Councillor Coles addressed the meeting and was relieved to hear that Cabinet were considering keeping the TCS. He had used the space for Ward Member surgeries in the past but noted that it needed refurbishing. He raised a concern about the lack of a Visitor Information service which had been highlighted to him at a recent trip to the Witney Museum.
Councillors Mead, Coul and Postan added their support to the proposal and Councillor Coul felt there was an opportunity for the Town Council to address some of the issues raised, as the grass roots of Witney Town.
Having considered the report and having heard from the Members present, it was
(a) Officers would be asked to work up an interim solution to relocate staff as part of the Agile Working project to the Town Centre Shop pending a longer term review of demand for face to face customer contact points and finalisation of the agile office outcomes; and
(b) Officers would be asked to utilise the existing office footprint where possible with minimum refurbishment costs until the review was completed.