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Citizens Advice “dismayed” by county council proposals to cut funding

Suffolk County Council offices, Endeavour House. Picture: ARCHANT

Suffolk County Council offices, Endeavour House. Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

The Citizens Advice network in Suffolk says it is “dismayed” by council proposals to end its funding support across the county.

Proposals to withdraw the funding – worth £375,000 to Citizens Advice across Suffolk during 2017/18 – were announced by Suffolk County Council (SCC) in its budget proposals on Wednesday.

The full council will vote in February whether to pull the funding and Citizens Advice said it is “seriously concerned about the impact” of the proposals on vulnerable people.

Nearly 22,000 people sought help from Citizens Advice in Suffolk last year for issues including money, benefit, housing, relationship or employment problems.

Richard Smith, SCC cabinet member for finances, said on Wednesday the authority has “tough choices to make”.

Sudbury Citizens AdviceSudbury Citizens Advice

John Ashton, chairman of Sudbury and District Citizens Advice, speaking on behalf of the Citizens Advice network in Suffolk, said: “While future funding is never guaranteed, we are dismayed that SCC is proposing to withdraw all funding from Citizens Advice in the county.

“We are seriously concerned about the impact of this proposal on our communities, especially on the most vulnerable.

“It would be very difficult to find alternative sources of funding in time to ensure continuity of service.

“The Suffolk trustees and chief officers will now consider all options for managing a potentially reduced budget, should the decision remain unchanged.

John Ashton, chairman of Sudbury and District Citizens AdviceJohn Ashton, chairman of Sudbury and District Citizens Advice

“We will work hard to deliver the best outcome that we can for the people of Suffolk.”

Richard Kemp, independent county councillor for Long Melford, said: “They are cutting back from the very people who have been affected most by the cuts. It’s becoming ludicrous. National government do not fund local government properly.”

In a joint statement, the chief officers of Citizens Advice in Suffolk said: “The funding we receive from SCC enables us to make a real difference in the lives of people across the county and we are very grateful for that.

“Our top priority is always the people who need us. The number of people we see continues to grow and our dedicated team of staff and volunteers is committed to serving them.

Ipswich Citizens Advice bureau talk about the help they can give with debt problems  
Nicky willshere

Ipswich Citizens Advice bureau talk about the help they can give with debt problems Nicky willshere

“National research shows that for every £1 invested in Citizens Advice we generate at least £1.88 in savings to government and public services and £11.43 in wider economic and social benefits.

“If agreed, these cuts would be a significant reduction in our budgets and will lead to difficult choices. We will work closely with our partners, staff and volunteers to make the best decisions we can in the circumstances.”

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Smith said: “We have very tough choices to make and we will never please everybody all the time, but we have to keep to our priority areas.

“I hope the public in Suffolk will understand our continuing budget difficulties.”

Carol Eagles at Citizens Advice Mid Suffolk. Picture: CITIZENS ADVICE MID SUFFOLKCarol Eagles at Citizens Advice Mid Suffolk. Picture: CITIZENS ADVICE MID SUFFOLK

What do Citizens Advice do?

The Citizens Advice network in Suffolk provides free, confidential and impartial advice to everyone on their rights and responsibilities.

There are seven local charities that cover the county.

Almost 22,000 people sought help from Citizens Advice in the county last year.

Richard Smith Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILRichard Smith Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

People in Suffolk were given advice on more than 75,000 issues, and, of this, 29% were benefits issues and 23% were debt issues.

So far in 2018/19, Citizens Advice in Suffolk have managed over £5million of debt.

The charities are supported by around 425 volunteers who donate 106,480 hours per year. The work done by the volunteers in Suffolk has been officially valued at over £2.4m.

People go to Citizens Advice with all sorts of issues, including money, benefit, housing, relationship or employment problems.

The goal of the organisation is to help everyone find a way forward.

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