Lisson Grove call centre to move to Scottish Highlands at a cost of �2million

Westminster Council says relocating 39 jobs to Dingwall will save �860,000 a year

Westminster Council is to close its Lisson Grove call centre and move the service almost 600 miles north to the Scottish Highlands – at a cost of almost �2million.

A total of 39 jobs will be relocated from Lisson Grove to the small town of Dingwall, 15 miles north of Inverness, in a move the council says will save �860,000 per year.

But the council admits it will have to pay �913,000 in redundancy costs and �922,000 to implement the change.

The service delivered by the call centre is also set to be reduced with some operations halved.

A leaked confidential council document says: “The hours of customer agent telephony service on the Environmental Action Line and Parking lines, will be reduced from a 24-hour service to 8.30am to 6.30pm, except for emergency or noise calls which will continue.”

The document, which concedes “there will be a customer impact on the Environmental Action Line and Parking lines”, reveals 46,000 calls are made between 6.30pm and 8.30am every year.

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Once the move takes place, those calls will be answered by “an automated message providing the customer with options to complete their contact via other channels”.

Westminster Labour group leader Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg said: “Moving the Lisson Grove call centre to the Scottish Highlands 600 miles away is the Westminster Conservative version of ‘localism’, resulting in the loss of 39 local jobs and a much reduced service at a multi-million pound cost to council taxpayers.”

The latest move follows the controversial relocation of up to 400 roles from Westminster to Dingwall in 2006. The council’s call centre staff have been employed by Vertex, a private administrative and customer services company, since 2002.

Cllr Melvyn Caplan, customer services and transformation boss, says the council’s cost per call will reduce from �8.92 to �4.85 as a result of the move.

“As a council we exist to provide high quality, value for money services for residents, business and visitors alike,” he said.

“The facts of the matter are that these changes are set to make savings of �860,000 a year until the end of the Vertex contract in 2014.

“After this we will then consider all options to ensure we continue to provide the best value for money to the taxpayer. That said, we remain committed to helping to reduce local unemployment and we have a number of initiatives that help residents back into work.”