MORE people are being told to avoid calling the Worcestershire Hub in a bid to save cash.

The council call centre, which has come under fire before for dips in performance, needs to cut £44,000 from its budget over the next year.

Now councils are trying to encourage more people to use the internet to solve queries – a move they are calling “channel shifting”.

They say the average telephone call to the centre costs about £3 to taxpayers, but making contact online works out at 86p.

The future cuts to the Hub were debated during a meeting of Worcester City Council’s performance management and budget scrutiny committee, where some politicians said it had “scary” implications.

Councillor Liz Smith, leader of Worcester’s Liberal Democrats, said: “Over the next two years the savings proposals make quite scary reading.

“I’ve got concerns about the Worcestershire Hub and since I’ve been on this committee its performance hasn’t always been up to scratch.”

Julie Slatter, service manager for performance, improvement and efficiency, said: “Some of the savings will be around shifting to less expensive methods of delivery. It’s all about moving to cheaper ways of assisting people.”

She also said the hub had “consistently delivered savings” and that they were aiming to make web queries the main focus.

“We’re looking at innovation and we’re focused on transforming the service – we shouldn’t underestimate how much channel shifting is going on,” she said.

The Hub’s call centre, which has about 50 staff, is the front line contact for queries from potholes to school closures. It operates on behalf of Worcester City Council, Worcestershire County Council and district councils in Wychavon and Malvern.

It deals with more than 670,000 calls a year to its contact centre in Perry Wood Walk, Worcester.

Waiting times for calls surged to an average of 72 seconds last year, up from a low of 22 seconds in 2010, but performances have started to pick up in recent weeks.