Protesters sign up to save ‘lifeblood’ of Church Street community

Angry Church Street residents have launched a campaign to retain a “vital” One Stop council help centre that is due to shut down in December.

Earlier this year Westminster Council announced plans to close three One Stop centres and replace them with services at Post Offices and free computers in libraries to access their website.

But hundreds of residents have signed a petition calling for the Church Street centre, which they say is “the lifeblood of the community”, to remain open.

The centre offers residents help with a number of services including paying rent and council tax, applying for parking permits and accessing council information.

Petition organiser Mary Allen, 70, uses the One Stop to renew her disabled parking badges.

“They have already got some of these machines in the library but when I went most of the librarians didn’t know how to use it,” said the Orchardson Street resident.

“Who is going to help us? A lot of people, especially older people, are worried about how they are going to get help to fill out all their forms.

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“We don’t want these computer hubs – we want to speak to a real person.”

Church Street Cllr Barbara Grahame, who holds her weekly surgery at the One Stop, says the service will not be adequately replaced with this proposal.

“You get people from all over Westminster and all walks of life using the service,” she said.

“The people who work there have a range of knowledge not represented anywhere else in the council.

“I am very concerned that the closure has not been thought through and will leave vulnerable residents without a service.”

Community services chief cllr Melvyn Caplan says a new deal with 25 Post Offices means residents will have a “wider choice” of places where they can make payments to the council.

“The fact residents can pay for a wide range of services at the Post Office – everything from council tax to parking permits – also increases convenience and efficiency,” he said.

“The transition will also help the council cut operational costs and results in savings of �2million.”

The petition will be given to the council in November.