Fury as council plans to stop over-the-counter payments at North Quay headquarters (From Dorset Echo)
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Fury as council plans to stop over-the-counter payments at North Quay headquarters
VULNERABLE people will suffer when a council scraps a service for paying bills, campaigners claim.
Weymouth and Portland Borough Council will stop over-the-counter payments at its North Quay offices later this year ahead of a move to a new site.
Residents will instead have to pay over the phone, via the internet or by setting up a direct debit.
The council is moving operations out of North Quay and says there will be no cash desk facility at its new town centre hub either.
Stopping counter payments will penalise people who only pay by cash and do not have bank accounts for various reasons, including those with poor credit ratings, say Labour councillors.
They say the needs of all residents must be met and are urging the council to make alternative arrangements.
Payments for things like council tax, business rates and invoices can be made at reception.
Stopping this service will cut queues and save money, says the council.
Research reveals there are around 8,000 visitors a month to the council reception, of which 2,000 make cash payments.
Labour group leader on the council, Colin Huckle, who is also the authority’s spokesman on social inclusion, said the move to stop counter payments surprised councillors who knew nothing of the change until an information leaflet was distributed.
He hopes people making cash payments will be able to do it via a bank but there is nothing on the leaflet explaining this. Cllr Huckle said: “I object most strongly that arrangements for cash payments appear not to be catered for.
“There are savings to be made if we can encourage more people to pay online, but this change impacts on those from all walks of life. Some will have no other way to pay.”
He added: “This change is being introduced as part of the preparation to move council accommodation out of North Quay.
“Labour councillors argued in March that consideration needs to be given to the impact on users of council services as well as to staff.”
Over-the-counter payments will stop at North Quay in October.
Major savings in payment change
FINANCE and assets spokesman for the council Peter Chapman said: “We have taken the difficult decision to sell our North Quay offices as we can no longer afford to run them. We will also no longer be able to afford to accept cash or card payments over the counter. It costs £1.46 to process cash payments compared to just two pence for a direct debit.
“We want to help our customers deal with this change and arrange other easier and more convenient ways to pay. Customers can pay online, by telephone or direct debit. The 24-hour payment line is 0845 30 10 204 and information about online payments can be found at dorsetforyou.com/payments and about direct debit at dorsetforyou.com/council-tax /directdebit
“Many other councils have also had to make this decision and no longer accept cash or card payments over the counter.”
Cllr Chapman said the council would work with customers who don’t have bank accounts in setting up one for them.
He added: “Later this year, we will offer a payment card that will allow customers to make cash payments at Post Offices and at Paypoint locations.”
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