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Concern over cuts to council service points

Highland Council has come under fire over plans to slash the number of council service points from 35 to 23.

People living in some remote communities will have to endure a round trip of more than 100 miles if they want to conduct their business face to face with a member of staff at one of the service points.

But a paper going before councillors next week will argue that the public have been voting with their feet, preferring to use the online or call centre facilities. A service point in Inverness can have 1000 customers a week but in some of the remote communities it can be as few as two or three, sometimes none.

Members of the public can use their phones or computers to do many of the things service points were set up to deal with such as paying council tax or housing rent, arranging special refuse collections or picking up for planning applications and parking permits.

However, to register a birth, death or marriage they must go in person with specific documents. In the case of a resident of Gairloch they would have to travel nearly 60 miles to Dingwall and back again.

Meanwhile those in Acharacle at the west end of Loch Shiel would have to go to Fort William either by way of the Corran Ferry, which is a 70-mile round trip or the 90-mile round trip by Glenfinnan.

Carolyn Wilson, the leader of the independent group, which provides opposition to the SNP/LibDem/Labour coalition at the council, said there was shock at the level of closures proposed.

"It is the most vulnerable small communities that are going to be affected," she said.

A spokesman confirmed that the council had undertaken a review of its services to customers and a report setting out recommendations would be presented to the Finance Housing and Resources Committee next week. "Any changes agreed would be implemented before June 2015," he said.

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Local government

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