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£2.5m customer centre criticised

PUBLISHED: 11:48 30 June 2008 | UPDATED: 20:45 05 July 2010

A decision by Waveney District Council bosses to spend £2.5m on opening a new customer services centre in Lowestoft has come in for fierce criticism.

The move to open a new one-stop shop in a building next door to the Marina Centre means the district council will move out of a similar facility it shares with Suffolk County Council at Lowestoft Library.

A decision by Waveney District Council bosses to spend £2.5m on opening a new customer services centre in Lowestoft has come in for fierce criticism.

The move to open a new one-stop shop in a building next door to the Marina Centre means the district council will move out of a similar facility it shares with Suffolk County Council at Lowestoft Library.

Conservative-run Waveney insists the move will provide better services for the public and allow staff to relocate from dilapidated offices around the town, but the opposition Labour group at the county council has branded the scheme a “colossal mess”.

Labour says the current centre at the library, known as the Navigator, has enjoyed increasing popularity and that the public had not been properly consulted.

It has also claimed that Waveney owes £82,000 to Suffolk County's Customer Service Direct organisation in relation to the joint centre, which will shut in August.

Julian Swainson, Labour group leader at the county council, said: “Suffolk County Council and Waveney District Council have made a colossal mess of a scheme that has so much potential.

“People in Waveney will be rightly wondering why the two councils seem incapable of the simple task of providing a few services jointly in a single building.

“Their inability to sit down together and sort out the mess they've made is further proof of the need for unitary local councils in Suffolk that can get on with solving problems.”

Andrew Shepherd, leader of the Lib Dem group at Waveney, also said there had been a lack of consultation over the move.

The district council previously stated it had worked well with county officials at the Navigator centre,

but that it was no longer

financially viable and not a long-term option.

In response to the criticism from Labour, a joint statement from Suffolk County Council leader Jeremy Pembroke and Waveney District Council leader Mark Bee said: “The comments of the Suffolk County Council Labour group are extremely presumptive.

“Waveney's customers have not been affected yet and plans for the move are still being made. It is our intention to ensure that customers are fully informed of the changes prior to August.

“Collaboration between Waveney and Suffolk County has worked well and we will continue to build on our relationship and discuss ways in which we can work together in the future.”

In relation to allegations that Suffolk County Council is owed £82,000, a Waveney spokesman said: “No formal agreement has been entered into. Therefore, it is not 'owed' as implied…”

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