THEY are the County Council staff you rarely ever use or see, because you only come face to face with them at the most momentous and poignant moments in your life.

But now the team registering births, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships in Buckinghamshire is set to take the limelight next month - when it appears in the final three of a prestigious award contest.

The county’s Registration Service has just been named as one of the finalists in the Excellence in Customer Service category at the Buckinghamshire Business Awards, to be held at the Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury on May 15. The award category is sponsored by John Lewis.

And the announcement caused delight among the team which operates as a self-sufficient Council service with a turn-over of £1.2m a year.

"We were surprised, and amazed, to be honest because it’s probably unusual for a local authority service to stand a chance of winning a business award," said Wendy Morgan-Brown, the service manager.

"But we operate as a business and receive no funding from the Council, so we are really excited to be recognised in this way. It’s a massive, massive acknowledgement of the staff and the work they do."

There are currently three main registration offices: County Hall, Aylesbury; Beaconsfield Old Town; and High Wycombe Library. In addition, staff go once a week to Buckingham Library and Chiltern District Council offices.

The team comprises 23 permanent and 30 casual staff, who have the task of filling in the correct paperwork at some of the most stressful times in people’s lives.

"For our staff, every single person is important to them, whether they are coming in for a birth, marriage or a death," said Ms Morgan-Brown. "We aim to get people through a formal process in a really nice relaxed and friendly way.

"In the case of registering births, we are there to create a legal identity for that person. But if they are there to register a death, our job is to get them through a difficult process so they can go home with a death certificate allowing other formalities to take place."

Happily, staff say they receive excellent feedback from many of the 18,700 customers they deal with per year. Customer satisfaction levels have consistently been at 96 per cent or above for the last five years.

"Customer care has always been vitally important to the us. For many people they have no choice but to use the service, particularly those who need to register a birth or death or undertake legal preliminaries for marriage as the law dictates they must attend their local register office.

"We have never been complacent about our customers and the level service they should receive or indeed expect." said Ms Morgan-Brown The service’s duties include: registering births and deaths, undertaking legal preliminaries for marriage and civil partnerships; conducting and registering marriages and civil partnerships; issuing copies of certificates and licenses venues for ceremonies.

It also offers a nationality checking service for those eligible to apply for British citizenship and arranges and conducts British citizenship ceremonies for successful applicants. Renewal of vows, commitment and naming ceremonies are also offered.

The ceremony business is particularly strong. With some 1400 ceremonies held each year it is estimated these bring in approximately £21m pa to the local Buckinghamshire economy.

Martin Phillips, the County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Engagement, said: "Many congratulations to the team for reaching the final. The dedication and commitment of staff fully deserves to be acknowledged in this way, and it’s a real testament to their abilities that they have made this service function so well as a self-sufficient business."

For more details on the Buckinghamshire Business Awards: