The closure of council offices has been described as a “kick in the teeth” for residents who will now have to travel more than five miles to speak face-to-face with council officials.

Opponents have described proposals to move all council staff out of Adur Civic Centre in Shoreham into council buildings in Worthing as a merger of Worthing and Adur councils “by the back door”.

A joint statement by the councils this week announced that staff will move out of Adur Civic Centre in spring as the authorities seek to reduce the number of large administrative buildings from three to two.

Both council leaders have been quick to dismiss talk of a merger and say the “radical move” is designed to reduce running costs and improve services for customers.

Concerns have been raised about vulnerable residents having to take bus journeys to Worthing and fears over the loss of face-to-face dealings with people with the removal of council services out of Adur.

Residents can currently pay their council tax and their council home rent as well as discuss housing or planning issues at the civic centre.

The council has promised Adur residents will not lose any services with the loss of the centre with a proposal to add a new wing to the Shoreham Community Centre at Pond Road to house council staff.

Adur council has decided to sell the civic centre site for an estimated £5 million because it says it is too costly to maintain and refurbish.

Work is currently under way at Portland House to create a new customer services hub set to open in spring next year.

The Grade II Listed Worthing Town Hall will also have some limited refurbishment to accommodate back office staff and potentially other community organisations currently housed in the civic centre.

Liberal Democrat councillor in Adur Richard Burt said: “I feel really sorry for the poor people of Southwick and Lancing who have had their local offices closed down before and now they will have to go all the way to Worthing.

“It’s like a kick in the teeth for the people of Adur. Soon we will just become an extension of Worthing.

“This feels like a merger by the back door.”

Neil Parkin, Adur council leader, said: “Adur will remain a separate council, with its own councillors and chairman and we will also remain in Shoreham.”

Worthing council leader Paul Yallop said: “This project allows us to greatly reduce the annual costs of office accommodation, helping us meet the challenging financial cuts being passed down from the Coalition government.

“Redesigning our service delivery is a much better option |than cutting front line public services.”

Strategic director Andrew Gardiner said: “In the future council staff will be working more flexibly as desk areas are reduced to save on expensive office floor space, some of which will be offset by income received from renting space out.”

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