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Calls to bring staff back to empty estate offices after call line fiasco

CityWest Homes apologises after residents left waiting up to an hour for housing help

04 August, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

Alida Baxter

LABOUR councillors are calling for staff to be brought back to estate offices after residents complained that they have been kept on phone hold for up to an hour.

Westminster Council shut several housing estate offices, which gave residents face-to-face contact with estate managers, and replaced them with a centralised call centre.

Dufours Place resident Alida Baxter, who has long campaigned for estate offices to be kept open, said the call centre system “simply isn’t working”.

She said: “The call centre is a joke. My record is 40 minutes holding on and eventually and repeatedly I have had to give up. I don’t know anyone who has been able to get through.

“You are also told you can email, but what you get when you do that is a reply saying you can expect a response in a week. You could be emailing to say the roof is falling in or that you have no cold or hot water.” She said they are “fortunate” at Dufours Place as they still have CityWest Homes staff come in to their old estate office for a couple of hours twice a week. “That is the only time you will speak to somebody who will deal with anything. Without that I don’t know what could happen to us. You have all these issues, the poor people in Kemp House are suffering, you have issues in my block. It is outrageous.”

Westminster’s Labour team said they have been “inundated” with stories from residents complain- ing of long waiting times.

Group leader Adam Hug said: “Westminster and CityWest Homes need to get a grip on the waiting times for their new call centre so that residents can get their issues dealt with.”|

He added that the restructuring of the system meant that rather having teams focused and well- acquainted with particular areas and villages within the borough, many staff at the call centre had instead been assigned to specific issues, such as anti-social behaviour.

Martin Edgerton, executive director at CityWest Homes, said: “We have experienced unprecedented call volumes following the launch of our new customer service centre. While we had forecast a 20 per cent increase in calls, the number of queries we received was much higher. This included additional calls from residents who were understandably ask- ing for reassurance around the safety of their home following the Grenfell Tower fire.

“We apologise for the temporary inconvenience. We have recruited more staff, and will recruit further support during peak periods, to answer calls as quickly as possible. We will also introduce a call- back option so that customers don’t need to wait on the telephone.”

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