Johnny’s latest press coverage

Plymouth’s First Stop Shop needs to reopen

January 8, 20240

Last month, I wrote a joint statement with Cllr Andy Lugger calling on Plymouth City Council to reopen the First Stop Shop on 71 New George Street. This was supported by the Conservative Group’s Motion on Notice at the last Full Council on 20th November 2023. 


Forced to shut in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the First Stop Shop provided a vital in-person service for members of the public seeking advice on local services provided by the Council. These services included housing and council tax benefit questions and advice, housing options and homelessness advisors, public use computers with free Wi-Fi and general council services such as bus passes and parking permits. 


I wrote to Plymouth City Council to seek more details on the closure of the shop. I have been informed that the staff employed have been redeployed to other roles. It is unclear what these roles are or if they perform a similar function. Also, since closing, the site has only provided support for homelessness. While tackling homelessness is vitally important, I am alarmed that none of the other services listed are now supported. The Council’s ‘digital first’ strategy pushes 90 percent of customers online and the only true face-to-face service is provided through libraries. By their own omission, library staff do not have the same specialist skills that were readily available at the First Stop Shop. 


This gives the impression that the Council are cutting corners to avoid a Birmingham-style bankruptcy crisis. All the while, Tudor Evans has turned down up to £70m devolution funding, doubled the costs of city centre projects and is being investigated for a £75m shares deal. 


The Conservative Group’s Motion on Notice cited Plymouth’s aging population and the corresponding decline in connectivity as key reasons why the First Stop Shop needs to reopen. The proportion of residents over the age of 75 will increase by 60.3 percent in the next 20 years. It resolves that the existing phoneline system is improved; a general ‘Helpline for all Enquires’ is advertised; a rigorous assessment of Council contact centres in conducted; and, crucially, the First Stop Shop is reinstated.  


Indeed, many elderly constituents who contact me are unable to navigate Plymouth City Council’s online services. The First Stop Shop is a vital helpline for our most vulnerable in Plymouth, providing a specialist, in-person service which I do not believe our libraries are able to match. Not surprisingly, this campaign has been heavily supported by people across Plymouth. It should be a priority for Plymouth City Council to see that it is reopened – I welcome the Conservative Group’s Motion on Notice. 


Also not surprising is that Tudor’s Labour Group did not support the Motion. It has been referred to the Scrutiny Committee for further consideration. I am hoping that this will take place in January. I will not let this be pushed into the long grass by Labour. This process must be expediated and given the consideration that it duly deserves. 


Cllr Pat Patel has shared with me that “We took a decision to close the First Stop Shop during 2022 on advice from Council Officers, however, had I been aware of the impact of our decision on the many people in the city who are unable to access online facilities for whatever reason we would have made a different decision.” 


I want to hear about your experiences in dealing with Plymouth City Council’s customer services – what issues have you faced? Please contact me via or 01752 876979. Surgeries can also be booked with me through these channels. Furthermore, if you would like to be notified about what I am doing here in Plymouth, including when I next write an op-ed for the Herald, please sign up to my mailing list here. 

Luke Jones

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