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Fury over Breckland Council plan to axe Swaffham office


Proposals to close Swaffham’s district council office have been condemned by town representatives.

Breckland Council chiefs say plans to close several sites in the district, including pulling out of its town hall base, will ensure staff are based where they are needed most often.

But, with the district’s ruling cabinet due to meet in the town next month, members of the town council vowed to challenge the plan when they met on Wednesday evening.

Robert Bartram described the idea as “disgusting, absolutely disgusting”, while Shirley Matthews, who is also one of the town’s Breckland councillors, said: “We’re bitterly disappointed.”

She also insisted she had vehemently protested when they became aware of what was being proposed at a district cabinet meeting.

The office is one of four that face the axe as part of proposals, due to come into force in June, to consolidate support services at Breckland Council’s headquarters in Dereham and a second site in Thetford.

Officials say the measures reflect the small numbers using the branch offices, including five at the Swaffham site on an average day, and the anticipated change in demand for support associated with the anticipated rollout of the Universal Credit benefit system.

When the plan was announced last month, Alison Webb, the district council’s executive member for people and information, said: “We have seen falling footfall at our satellite offices and a rise in people contacting us online.

“We are putting greater resources where the majority of our customers need us most.”

But Mrs Matthews said: “It’s not just getting to Dereham on a bus. You’ve then got to get to Elizabeth House.”

Jan Buckley-Stevens added: “Even if they’re open one day a week, that would help.”

The meeting was also told councillors in two of the other towns affected by the plan, Attleborough and Watton, were also protesting against it.

Further concerns were raised about whether plans to provide a technology point at the town hall for people to resolve issues would both increase the workload for town council staff and be properly accessible to all residents.

Councillors also heard members of the Iceni Partnership would be holding talks with Breckland officials to express their concerns.

The issue could also be raised when Breckland Council’s cabinet meets at the town hall on March 20. The meeting is the first in a series of meeting being held around the district.


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