Council to reach out to residents through town centre shop and livestreamed meetings

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As part of a review of how it uses its buildings West Oxfordshire District Council is to make more services available to residents at its Welch Way offices.

Councillor Andy Graham, leader of the council, said: “As an administration we are committed to making it easier for residents to access the local services we provide and also to make the council more transparent. 

“As part of this review of our office space in Witney we are looking to move more services to the easily accessible Welch Way offices in the centre of town to make better use of our assets and make it easier for residents to access the service they need.

“We are also hoping that by locating more services in the centre of the town it will help support the local town centre economy.”

READ ALSO: All the roads in Witney that will be lowered to 30mph-20mph

Witney Town Centre Shop has suffered a dramatic drop in customers in recent years.

A report in 2021 said that before the pandemic visits for both customer services and tourist information fell by 70 per cent over the previous three years.

Customers were now using phone and online as their main means to access services.

At one point during the pandemic it was receiving only 17 customers a day.

David Gambier, managing director at Experience Travel Group and interim chairman of the Witney Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the move.

He said: “What we would really like to see back in the Town Centre Shop is a fully-functioning Tourist Office to promote Witney and the surrounding area domestically and internationally. It could also then take an active role in counteracting some of the coverage that we have seen that seems to spread the message that ‘Witney High Street is closed’, when we know that this isn’t a true representation of the case.

“The general feedback is that the High Street businesses are actually doing very well at the moment.”

The council owns three main office spaces at Woodgreen, Elmfield and Welch Way. 

The Elmfield office would be vacated and potentially used as an income-generating asset while staff would move to the Welch Way office. 

READ ALSO: Witney woman charged with assaulting emergency worker

And in another move to improve accessibility, a new system will be installed at the Woodgreen offices, enabling council meetings to be live streamed so residents do not have to attend in person.

Mr Graham said: “We will also be installing technology in our council meeting rooms to allow people to view democracy online, making decision-making more transparent for residents. Also, community groups and other people will be able to access the upgraded facilities.” 

“This will enable us to make better use of our buildings, providing a potential income stream we can use for council services and also look at how we reduce our carbon footprint.”

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