The changes were agreed by the council's Cabinet at its meeting on Tuesday 8 December 2020.

Among the changes to be introduced will be a new 'meet and greet' style service This will replace the old 'queue for a ticket' system which has operated for many years, and will instead focus on helping people access the council's online services where possible.

When arriving at East Pallant House, a resident will be greeted by a 'floor walker' who will help them to use the self-service computers. They will also sign post people to further information and respond to any enquiries. The new system will free up staff to help support the most vulnerable residents, for example those who do not often use or have access to the internet, or those who have trouble filling in forms.

"Over the last few years we have been working to significantly improve our online services and we have made huge inroads with this," explains Councillor Peter Wilding, Cabinet Member for Finance at Chichester District Council. "Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic we have had to close our Customer Service Centre and reduce our face-to-face contacts. As a result, many people have automatically turned to our online services. In many cases, people prefer to use this method and expect services to be available online and so we will continue to make further improvements in this area. The changes that we have just agreed upon are designed to build on this recent shift in customer behaviour and increase the number of people who can self-serve.

"The new system will be very similar to what you find when you visit a bank these days. However, we want to reassure people that if your enquiry cannot be resolved online or over the phone, then an appointment will be offered, especially for those customers who are vulnerable and unable to use online facilities without assistance.  Our staff will be trained to support those who need the most help."

The council is also in the process of installing self-scanning machines to help residents who need to submit copies of personal documents. Before this is in place, people can drop documents off in the post box while the building is closed to the public. People are also encouraged to email any documentary evidence if they are able to do so.

In addition, the council will also be actively promoting its digital channels and increasing signage in its buildings to promote online services.

The changes will only be introduced when the guidance around coronavirus allows them.

Date of release: 8 December 2020

Reference: 3953