One of the major criticisms facing councils is that people are given the run around, they cannot find what they need and often leave feeling annoyed and that they have not been helped.
Following research by Newport City Council, residents made it clear that they were frustrated that they had to go to multiple locations to pay bills and get information. They listened and responded to this feedback from residents, and decided to address the issue by bringing one of its disused buildings back into use with the regeneration of the city’s former railway station building.
This building is situated in the heart of the city and was left unoccupied after a new railway station was built to welcome visitors to the city for the Ryder Cup tournament. However, the council acquired the building and along with other public sector services, and in an innovative move for Newport, decided to open the Information Station.
The new facility sees a considerable improvement in service delivery and easier access to information for residents allowing a range of queries to be dealt with at one time in one place, providing a better experience for visitors.
A Help Zone handles quick queries, including advice and guidance, information requests, document handling and booking of appointments with the trained customer service staff.
For the enquiries that take a little longer, there is the Advisory Zone with specialist advisors, private interview points and a family room.
The Information Station brings together a host of public services including Aneurin Bevan Health Board, Gwent Police, Citizens Advice Bureau, Newport City Homes, Communities First and the University of Wales, Newport, as well as council services such as housing, planning, licensing, housing benefits, council tax, Gwent Ethnic Minority Service and social services under one roof. Citizens can access a number of services at the same time, in a one stop shop environment.
The project is unique to Wales and has been very much a collaborative effort. One Newport, the city’s local service board, which sees the leaders of local public, private and third sector organisations work together to ensure services are effective, focused on local people and improve the quality of life in the city – the objectives of the Information Station.
The Information Station houses 300 employees from a range of public services, in a modern, welcoming environment where residents can easily access services and speak to someone face to face. It has allowed the council to close other locations across the city
Its central location means that when people are in the city centre they can call in and access information, make payments or report issues – residents no longer have to go out of their way. This centre puts the needs and convenience of local people first and greatly improves their experience when accessing services.
The new facility has allowed Newport City Council to close offices located across the city and now services can be accessed in one place with individuals no longer having the run around. No job losses have resulted from the opening of the new facility.
During the refurbishment of the building, Rt Hon Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities and local government, made an official visit and praised Newport for its foresight with creating the facility.
He commented on his visit, “Newport City Council has put its thinking cap on and came up with a great way to save taxpayers money.
“It’s exactly the sort of innovation that will help Newport protect front line – and even improve the choice and services that’s on offer to hard-working families and the most vulnerable.
“Not only does the new information station bring together a host of services under one roof it has also brought a disused building in the centre of town back in use helping draw people into the high street.”