Funding is part of a Government grant

PUBLISHED: 09:32 10 July 2006 | UPDATED: 09:35 24 May 2010

LAST week's article in the Weston edition of the Mercury You pay £765 a day to teach council staff good manners" is grossly misleading and does not provide an accurate or balanced picture

LAST week's article in the Weston edition of the Mercury "You pay £765 a day to teach council staff good manners" is grossly misleading and does not provide an accurate or balanced picture.To clarify for your readers, the majority of the cost for the customer access programme director is being funded by Central Government and not by local taxpayers. £85,000 was provided by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to specifically fund the appointment of a programme director to help us put in place new IT systems and work practices, and not as your piece says, 'to teach staff how to speak to people on the phone'. This funding is part of the council getting a wider Government grant of £350,000 to help support the costs of the programme. We are required by the conditions of the grant to use £85,000 to fund this specific role.The rate for this position was negotiated with a recruitment agency and a discount given. To reiterate, the rate being paid is the market rate for the skills and experience necessary for this specialist role and, through the Customer Access Programme, will bring about significant improvements in the way the council helps its customers. The role is temporary and will have no long term cost to the council or local taxpayer.The programme has cross party support. It was started under the Conservative/Liberal Democrat joint administration, with Councillor Mike Roe taking an active lead and is now being taken forward by the current administration.A great deal of information about the Customer Access Programme was passed to your paper to highlight the benefits of the programme, but little of this appeared in the story. Your reporter was also invited to come in for a full briefing so he could get as much information as possible but he refused the offer.All the investment in the Customer Access Programme will ensure that we help with customer enquiries more efficiently and not, as your ridiculous headline suggests, just 'teach council staff good manners'.I am particularly disappointed by Cllr Roe's comments, as reported in your article. Cllr Roe was a leading member of the executive when it set up the Customer Access Programme and its budget. As recently as February at a council meeting he seconded the award of the contract for the supply of IT systems and, is very well aware of the highly specialist skills and experience required to successfully deliver a programme of this kind. Frankly, he should know better. CLLR ISABEL CUMMINGS- Executive member for housing and community and Customer Access Programme board member, North Somerset CouncilEDITOR'S NOTE: We stand by our statement that the funding for the post, whether it's made up of local or Central Government monies, is provided by the taxpayer - you. A statement provided to us by the council states action taken under the CAP includes 'customer care training and improved standards in dealing with telephone calls and correspondence'.

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