The independent London newspaper

Six estate offices to close in housing cuts package

CityWest says 94 per cent of residents contact housing managers by phone and email

07 April, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

Soho’s Alida Baxter has criticised the closures 

COST-CUTTING plans to shut down most of estates offices across Westminster have been revealed.

CityWest Homes will shut the offices in Church Street, St John’s Wood, Little Venice, Westbourne Park, Paddington Green and Charlwood Street.

Just four offices will remain open after the changes, which Labour say are part of a £5million cuts package.

Earlier this year, City-West closed the long-standing Soho estate office and moved staff out to Lilestone Street, Lisson Grove.

Dufours Place resident Alida Baxter said: “The loss of our local estate office has had, from day to day, quite major effects especially at times when things have gone wrong. Everything is done at arms-length, so whether it is something trivial or something major, you have nobody on the spot, which can sometimes be truly disastrous. There is no substitute for somebody being on the spot.”

CityWest Homes say they carried out a review and found their offices are not well used, with 94 per cent of contact with residents about housing issues by phone or email.

Westminster Labour Party has opposed the move arguing face-to-face contact at offices is particularly important for vulnerable residents, or people without access to the internet or without a strong grasp of English. Labour’s group leader Cllr Adam Hug urged CityWest to think again. “These drastic estate office closures are yet another sign of the retreat of council services from our local communities,” he said. “Many of our estate offices are a valued part of the community and in particular older and more vulnerable residents would really feel their loss.” And while CityWest have suggested holding drop-in “surgeries” in affected areas, Labour say this is not enough for vulnerable residents who want face-to-face contact.

Area service centres will remain at Lanark Road, Lilestone Street, Lupus Street and Westbourne Terrace.

Shadow cabinet member for housing Cllr Tim Roca said: “Shutting offices which had over 13,500 visits in a nine-month period last year alone, before having a website fully functioning and ready, is only one among a number of concerns we have with the closure and redundancies envisaged by these proposals.”

Jonathan Cowie, chief executive of CityWest Homes, said: “By changing the way we deliver customer services in line with how people prefer to contact us will ensure a better and more efficient service for more people.”

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