News that people will no longer be able to pay rent or council tax, nor buy coach or event tickets at the Taunton Deane community office in Wellington after next month stunned and angered town councillors at their monthly meeting. The town clerk told the meeting that TDBC had written to say that the payment machine would be removed on March 30 and tenants would be expected to use other methods of payment. Cheques and cash would no longer be accepted at the office.
“I am not aware that that this reduction in service has been given a great deal of publicity, if any, or that any consultation has taken place,” said clerk Greg Dyke.
“It’s appalling to withdraw a service from some of the most needy people in Wellington and I was horrified to hear about it,” said mayor Cllr Gary James. Many vulnerable pensioners from nearby Bulford use the office to pay rent and council tax. Staff also provide advice on benefits and other local services.
“The writing seems to be on the wall for this community office,” said Cllr Janet Lloyd. “I do hope another trader in town will take on the agency for Berrys and National Express tickets. Many elderly people like to buy tickets there for what may be their only outings.” The community office has also sold tickets for Taunton Flower Show, Royal Bath & West and other events.
Cllr Govier made the point that the council could hardly criticise the major banks for leaving Wellington if the district council was about to do the same thing. He urged the three councils; town, district and county to come together and “do some joined-up thinking” about the provision of services in the town – especially in the light of uncertainty over the future of the library.
“The direction of travel seems to be for TDBC to do less and less in the town and we should express our views quite strongly,” said Cllr John Thorne, who is also a Somerset county councillor. The town council agreed to write and express its complete opposition to the withdrawing of services available in the Community Office.
In its information sheet Taunton Deane made no commitment to keeping the Community Office open, saying “No decisions have been made yet about Wellington Community Office fits in with our overall review of how we deliver services in local areas.” It does say that the Tourist Information Service will continue to operate from the building.