Better service pledge for Norwich families

Sarah HallFamilies have been promised a much better service from Norwich City Council after a massive shake-up which bosses say will improve links between City Hall and the community.Sarah Hall

Families have been promised a much better service from Norwich City Council after a massive shake-up which bosses say will improve links between City Hall and the community.

The new neighbourhood model means Norwich has been split up into four distinct neighbourhood areas - with front line staff tasked with looking after those areas.

Each area has its own neighbourhood manager and local team of front line staff, including neighbourhood wardens - who will be based in the community to deal with anti-social behaviour issues.

The neighbourhood bosses will be in charge of clearly identifiable frontline council officers, who could be approached by people to raise concerns and complaints about services face to face.

There will also be a contracts officer, who will help ensure the new contractors which took over this week from CityCare for services such as bin collections and council house repairs are providing a good service.

A community engagement officer will also be based out in the neighbourhood and council bosses say the aim of the shake-up is to stop people having to make frustrating phone calls to City Hall when they can instead get in touch with the people responsible for their neighbourhood.

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Linda Blakeway, executive member for neighbourhood development, said: 'We recognise that different neighbourhoods and communities have individual needs and priorities. We want to work more closely with local people so we can deliver the services they want and deserve.'

The shake-up, which came into effect this week, is linked in with the break-up of the old CityCare contract, which has been divided amongst a number of new contractors who will provide services such as council house maintenance and refuse collection.

It comes ahead of the city council achieving its long-held ambition to become a unitary council, taking on extra responsibilities, such as education and social services, currently provided by Norfolk County Council.

Matt Atherton, the new contract officer for the north neighbourhood, said: 'This new way of working will mean we are out on the street more and based in the neighbourhood rather than City Hall. We will be more visible to local people who will be able to report a broad range of issues to us while we are out and about.'

Sue Scarnell, neighbourhood warden (North) said: 'This is a great way to get to know local people better and find out about their needs and priorities. We will not just focus on issues of antisocial behaviour and direct people to call in to report issues, we can take details there and then and will be able to report these back to our relevant colleagues and make sure the job gets done.'

Ian Sturman, neighbourhood warden (North) said: 'I'm looking forward to working more closely with young people in the neighbourhood, helping them understand the important role they play in the community. We want people to feel they can approach us and we are there to help.'

Steve Morphew, leader of Norwich City Council said: 'The idea is that is there is a problem, for example a street light is out, someone has fly-tipped or a pothole needs repairing then they can approach any member of council staff to report it and that member of staff will be expected to make sure it gets to the right department to be dealt with. It will be their responsibility on behalf of the council to take it up on behalf of the resident.'

Mr Morphew said they wanted each and every member of staff to become an ambassador for quality in the city - with each wearing clothing which clearly marks them as city council workers.

But a note of caution was sounded by Conservative group leader Antony Little. He said: 'It is a good principle to have more council employees on the ground and in touch with the public.

'The question is will they be any more responsive to their needs because the thing we hear time and time again is that people contact the council and nothing ever gets done.

'If this means it does, then great, but it needs to be more than just a rebranding exercise.'

As part of the switch over from CityCare to Connaught in providing council house repairs to some 17,000 tenants, repairs must now be reported directly to Connaught, rather than to the council.

Customers need to call the council's main telephone number 0344 980 3333 (and press option 4) to log housing repairs - either from home or by using the public telephones at City Hall or in the neighbourhood offices.

Do you have a story about a local council? Call Evening News reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email