UDC set to reopen its doors

Uttlesford District Council reopens its doors next week - but residents are asked to think about whether they really need to visit.

The reception at the London Road Offices in Saffron Walden will reopen on Monday 26 July. There will be revised operating days and times and residents are encouraged to carefully consider whether they need to attend in person. Almost everything that people used to visit the council for can be done over the phone or online, and thousands of people have done exactly that since the start of the pandemic.

The doors will be open from 9am to 12pm and 1pm to 4pm every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The building will remain closed to the public every Wednesday because the car park is used as an NHS drive through and walk-in PCR test centre and it is important for the safety of all to minimise contact between people arriving for a test and people visiting the site for other reasons.

Cllr Richard Freeman, Portfolio Holder for Council and Public Services, said: "Everybody, and especially our residents, have been amazing and really stepped up over the last 16 months with how they have adapted to the changes - we now deliver our services using the experience we gained during the Covid-19 pandemic. We are delighted to offer once again a front-desk service, but I would like to emphasise that people should use the phone or email if at all possible.

"We believe it is important to offer a front desk service for those who really need it now national restrictions are coming to an end but I would urge anyone thinking about coming in to first ask themselves if they need to do so. Covid cases are rising sharply, both nationally and locally, and we want to keep everyone - our staff as well as the public - as safe as possible.

"It will not be the same experience as in pre-pandemic times - many staff are still working from home so if a resident needs to speak to an officer other than one of our Customer Service Advisors, they will have to do so by phone. But what residents can expect if they do walk through the door is the same professional level of service we have always offered. As well as dealing with their enquiry, our Customer Service Advisors will also help residents understand how they can do what they need to without necessarily having to make a trip to the offices in future."

The council is planning new initiatives to make it even easier to access services. An appointment booking system will mean residents who do need to speak to a particular department can book a time over the phone or online, while a live chat facility will give residents the opportunity to talk to the council from any internet-enabled device, via the council's website. Both of these are expected to be available later in the summer.

Cllr Freeman added: "The way many people work has fundamentally changed since March 2020 but it's the same council. It is essential that the public can get hold of us when the need arises. Now they can do so without necessarily having to travel to Saffron Walden or another location.

"Many people like face-to-face contact, but Covid has made this difficult. When we reopen, the standard of service will be every bit as good as before, but there will be more emphasis on communicating remotely. In many ways, this is better - it saves on transport costs, travel time and reduces our carbon footprint."

The Customer Service desk at Great Dunmow Library will reopen in the coming weeks. The Community Information Centre in Thaxted is already open for the Essex County Council-run library service.

20 July 2021