Southwark Council this week announced a huge rise in enquiries by email since the 'Ask Austin' service was launched in August.
Since Austin's smiling face became a daily feature on the Southwark Council website, email queries have shot up from thirty a month to around thirty a day.
Austin says: "The fact that it is a clearly identifiable human being they are emailing to rather than an impersonal computer system means that people are more comfortable using the system."
Austin answers questions on everything from residents' basic council tax queries to overseas visitors trying to trace long lost ancestors from Southwark.
"There is an awful lot of useful information held on our website," said Austin. "Part of my job is simply helping direct people to the bits that are important to them."