Council to permanently reduce phone lines

West Oxfordshire District Council said it will continue to operate telephone lines for reduced hours after a trial period that reinforced residents’ desire to switch to the use of online services.

An emergency telephone line continues to operate, which offers help with services such as homelessness support.

Non-emergency callers are greeted with a message and advised to use digital services or to call back on the next day that the lines are open.

Their trial began in September 2023, the Council began trialling new opening hours for its customer services call centre, operating from 9am to 2pm instead of 9am to 5pm.

The Council said that over the last three years, the volume of customer calls received by the Council has declined by over 37 per cent, and the use of online forms has increased by 350 per cent. 

They added that they have been introducing new digital services over the last few years, including reporting missed bins, managing council tax and benefit payments, and requesting bulky waste collections. 

When the Council's garden waste service became available online, they said 90 per cent of resident contacts were made through the website. 

Giles Hughes, chief executive officer for West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “Our residents have shown a clear shift towards using online services over the last 6 months, and by making the trialled call centre hours permanent, it will allow us to enhance our digital services even further.  

“The trial has brought positive changes, including a decrease in average wait times over the busy lunch period, an overall improvement in customer satisfaction and a reduction in costs of the service which will help us meet our financial challenge and protect vital community services.  

“During the trial months, the Council featured in the national top ten for telephone service customer satisfaction in almost every month, even ranking in the top three during March 2024, which was our busiest month."