HUBS in Stourport and Bewdley will close after Wyre Forest District Council upheld its cabinet's decision to axe the customer service centres.
A proposal calling for Conservative Nathan Desmond, the executive member responsible for the original money-saving call, to reconsider his actions was defeated by one vote despite support from Independent Community and Health Concern (ICHC), the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and Labour.
Five councillors representing communities in Bewdley and Stourport - Conservatives Stephen Clee, Jenny Greener, Chris Rogers, Gordon Yarranton and Independent Julian Phillips - backed the closures at the full council meeting on Wednesday, July 30.
However even if the vote, which was proposed by ICHC’s Liz Davies, had been passed the full chamber would not have been able to overturn the closing of the hubs unless the cabinet itself changed its stance.
Angry opposition councillors vented their frustration at this situation and the lack of consultation in the decision-making process, labelling it "shocking” and “unacceptable”.
ICHC councillor Graham Ballinger said “this was part of a cunning plan” and “it is an insult to the public to close two used facilities while we are sitting here in total isolation in a high-cost building” that residents rarely use.
He added: “We are denying members of the public the opportunity to have a face-to-face consultation and that is unacceptable.”
UKIP councillor Paul Wooldridge described the decision as “shocking”, “entirely political” and made by “a strong authoritarian leader”, while his fellow party member Michael Wrench claimed “this council seems to be going backwards”.
Labour councillor Nigel Knowles said “public consultation was nil which is not good enough” and “we should step-up activities in the hubs” not terminate them, while another Labour councillor Christopher Nicholls feared the closures would have a knock-on effect on the Kidderminster hub and alienate residents who are not computer-savvy.
ICHC councillor Cliff Brewer said “it was a slight on town councillors to not be consulted” and UKIP councillor John Holden questioned the legitimacy of the usage figures, claiming reductions were caused in Stourport due to the hub moving premises.
Conservative councillor Chris Rogers however defended the closures, stating “to keep redundant hubs open would be a waste of taxpayers’ money” while cabinet member Nathan Desmond said the decision was “not political or arbitrary” but based on a “compelling case due to visitor number falling dramatically”.
Council leader Marcus Hart expressed a similar stance, explaining the nature of face-to-face customer service had changed and “we are saving taxpayers’ money and protecting frontline services”.