TOWN HALL AND LIBRARY PREPARE FOR A WARM WELCOME
By JCLPhotography | Wednesday, September 26, 2012, 09:55
Accessing council services will be easier, quicker and more convenient when the Town Hall in Weston-super-Mare re-opens next week.
Weston's new Town Hall ©JCLPhotography
From Monday October 1 the refurbished building will be open seven days a week bringing North Somerset Council's customer-facing services and a new central library together for the first time, making it easier for local people to get advice, information and services – all under one roof.
Services available on the spacious ground floor, accessible by a new ramp and entrance, include the new Weston Library, HomeChoice and housing enquiries, council tax and benefits advice, 30 public computers plus all the usual council reception services.
Many services are available at the touch of a button with payment kiosks for paying council invoices and self-service library units, already proving popular in other North Somerset libraries, to check library books in and out. A new appointment system will make it easier for customers to check-in for pre-arranged meetings with council officers or to book an appointment when they arrive.
A team of knowledgeable, specially-trained customer advisers will be on hand to answer questions or put visitors in touch with a specialist officer using hand-held devices to arrange appointments.
The brand-new library has 20% more shelf space, dedicated children and teen zones and a new local studies area, the Frederick Wood room, which is twice its original size. There are 9,000 new books, including nearly 4,000 new children's books some of which were chosen by local schools. There are also over 4,500 new adult books, talking books, music CDs and DVDs.
The building's upper floors have been reconfigured to provide space for 50% more staff giving the council and its partners the opportunity to work more closely together in one place. Carbon emissions will drop by 61% following the refurbishment with energy costs cut by £50,000 giving the building an impressive 'A' energy performance rating.
The improvements are part of the council's innovative programme to reduce its office estate and operate from two cost efficient 'hubs' – the Town Hall and Castlewood in Clevedon – where council staff work alongside partners in the NHS, Agilisys and Liberata to deliver more integrated services. The programme is saving the council hundreds of thousands of pounds in annual rents, building maintenance and other costs.
Councillor Nigel Ashton, Leader of North Somerset Council said: "This wise investment in the Town Hall means we can offer more services to local people in one place, provide a new library fit for the 21st century and support the regeneration of Weston town centre. However the Town Hall is one part of a much bigger story. At a time when we are facing severe budget challenges, the transformation of our office estate will not only help us improve the way we work and provide better services, it will also deliver annual savings of £700,000 by 2015.
"Focusing our activities in two main buildings helps us to avoid duplication, save money, save energy, avoid silo working and provide a much better experience for local people."
To see the full range of photos by North Somerset photographer Jeremy Long click here