Swaffham Council look to restore registrar’s service

Free offices and local support are among the ideas being considered to help bring a registrar’s service back to Swaffham.

The service, which records births, marriages and deaths, has moved out of the town following cuts agreed in Norfolk County Council’s budget for the current financial year.

The move means people living in the town now often have to travel to either Dereham or Lynn to use the service.

And both members and officials of the town council called for the situation to be reviewed at the authority’s meeting on Wednesday evening.

Former town mayor Anne Thorp said: “It seems we’re losing things in Swaffham that we really shouldn’t be losing. We need you here.”

Sheila Lister highlighted the growth of the town as a key reason for the service to remain local.

She asked whether staff could return if they were given the free use of an office by the town council.

Robert Bartrum wondered whether outreach services, similar to those used by banks, could be considered.

And town clerk Richard Bishop questioned whether arrangements could be made for town council staff to perform registrar’s duties as a support service.

But Caroline Clarke, a senior official in the registration service for Norfolk, said there were currently legal restrictions that could prevent such a scheme from coming into force.

She said: “If it was possible, it’s something I would be going to all the towns and asking, ‘How about this?’”

She also admitted that the chances of returning the service to how it was are slim.

She said: “At the moment, we’re struggling to cover our main, full-time offices.”

But the meeting was told that officers could visit people in their homes if they were unable to travel to another office.

Changes to the registration service were implemented as a result of the county council’s budget, which was finalised in February.

As well as the closure of the Swaffham branch, operations at the offices in Downham and Fakenham were also slashed from five days a week to just one.