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Public meeting to decide fate of council help-desk in Deal Library

By Eleanor Perkins

A public meeting to discuss the future of the face-to-face help desk in Deal Library will be held tonight.

The special scrutiny meeting will be at the Astor Theatre in Stanhope Road at 6pm.

It comes after members of the scrutiny (policy and performance) committee felt there was not enough evidence to justify closing the service and that too many people were still using it. This is their opportunity to ask members of the cabinet to explain their decision.

The town's district area office is within Deal Library

The town's district area office is within Deal Library

The cabinet voted on Monday, September 4 to close it in a bid to help save £45,000 a year.

Staff are to be redeployed to a call centre at the council’s base in Whitfield.

Cllr Mike Eddy, district ward member for Deal’s Mill Hill, has questioned why the council did they not look at other options such as reducing the number of opening days in Deal. It is three now but could be two or one.

He also argued that there would be an effect on Deal’s High Street trade as people used the help desk while they were in the area shopping or visiting their dentist or GP.

He is encouraging people to attend the meeting.

He said: “Users of this service need to get down there and make their voice heard.

“I hope they [cabinet members] will see the implications for the people which their decision is going to have.

Cllr Mike Eddy

Cllr Mike Eddy

“Deal is the second biggest population centre in the district with a large number of elderly people who don’t have access to the internet and certainly don’t have mobile phones. By closing this, they are not getting the service they deserve.

“I am hoping they will change their mind and reinstate the Deal help desk, perhaps on a two-day basis to provide extra opportunities for those that don’t live within a five-mile radius of Dover town centre.”

The council’s plan to close the help desks in Deal, Sandwich and Aylesham was published in a report put to the cabinet during the summer.

It was agreed to axe the Sandwich and Aylesham centres due to low footfall but councillors voted to ask for further information on usage of the Deal hub and discuss it again in September.

The officers’ report said about 10 customers a week used the Aylesham base, 75 people a week used the Sandwich one at the Guildhall, and 220 people used the Deal one in Broad Street.

The closure of all three centres would provide an estimated saving of £22,500 in 2017/18 followed by annual savings of £45,000.

The original proposal was to close the Deal centre in October.

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