IT will be at the heart of the community. That’s the view of officials and borough councillors on the authority’s new customer services drop-in centre at the Old Magistrates’ Court which was officially opened last Monday morning. It is the new home of TVBC staff in the town following the decision to sell off Duttons Road and buy the Church Street premises from Hampshire County Council.

Cutting the ribbon with Test Valley’s leader, Ian Carr, Mayor Dorothy Baverstock told onlookers that it marked the “start of a new era” for residents in the south of the borough with the opening of this “community hub”.

“This new building will be the home of our own customer services team, Hampshire County Council and, hopefully, in the near future, two additional services from the voluntary sector – one for the support of residents – Citizens Advice Bureau and the other for voluntary organisation’s support Test Valley Community Services, thus making it a one-stop shop,” said Mrs Baverstock.

She added: “It is also a sad day for many, as today marks the official closure of Duttons Road offices, with all its services. There will be many residents, staff and councillors who feel just as sad as I do.

But, life goes on with new technology and today is the start of another era and I hope our staff will be very happy here and the residents have the continued efficient and helpful service that we are used to.”

Mr Carr reassured people at the official opening that TVBC would retain a strong presence in Romsey and the authority would continue to hold meetings in the town, at the Crosfield Hall.

He pointed out that the move would deliver what he called “significant savings” in the years ahead.

The customer services team now housed in the building includes a planning officer, building control officer, housing officer and benefits staff.

Hampshire social services staff will share the building.

Roy Perry, who represents Romsey Extra on the county council, was amongst ex-mayors and borough councillors at the opening ceremony.

He said the new set-up made good financial sense for the council tax payers of the county and the borough.

“HCC is pleased to be retaining a customer service presence in Romsey and the changes should be barely noticeable for the members of the public who need to access the office,” he said “This careful management and use of resources is one of the reasons that Hampshire manages to set the lowest council tax of any county in the South-East region.”

Duttons Road has been put on the market.

Councillors will debate the building’s long-term future on April 17.