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Hundreds of scams and rogue trader referrals under threat with Citizens Advice cuts

PUBLISHED: 09:11 03 February 2019

Staff and volunteers from Suffolk branches of Citizens Advice outside Endeavour House, Ipswich, ahead of the  Suffolk County Council cabinet meeting discussing funding cuts. Picture: NELLEKE VAN HELFTEREN

Staff and volunteers from Suffolk branches of Citizens Advice outside Endeavour House, Ipswich, ahead of the Suffolk County Council cabinet meeting discussing funding cuts. Picture: NELLEKE VAN HELFTEREN

NELLEKE VAN HELFTEREN

Planned cuts to the Citizens Advice grant by Suffolk County Council could result in fewer scams and rogue trader cases being presented to Trading Standards, it has emerged.

Nicky Willshire from Citizens Advice said it was a 'shortsighted' move by the county council. Picture: GREGG BROWNNicky Willshire from Citizens Advice said it was a 'shortsighted' move by the county council. Picture: GREGG BROWN

In November Suffolk County Council voiced plans to axe the £368,000 core funding grant given to Citizens Advice – a move which was backed by the council’s cabinet last week – as part of cost cutting measures.

The controversial plan has attracted criticism from opposition parties, Citizens Advice staff and volunteers and more than 6,250 people who have signed a petition.

But it has now emerged that Citizens Advice branches in Suffolk refer well over 200 cases to Trading Standards each year, which it may not be able to continue doing without the funding.

Nicky Willshire, head of Ipswich Citizens Advice, said: “The stuff we do all the time, direct or indirect, is around the prevention work more than anything else.

Richard Rout said the Citizens Advice referrals were only 4% Trading Standards in Suffolk received. Picture: SCCRichard Rout said the Citizens Advice referrals were only 4% Trading Standards in Suffolk received. Picture: SCC

“We know how desperate people are when they come to us. We deal with people in crisis all the time – housing, child poverty, the health aspects, wellbeing – I cannot believe how short-sighted they [the county council] have been.”

Ms Willshire said as well as the referrals to Trading Standards, Citizens Advice also helped people access children’s and adult health and social care services, homelessness support, special educational needs provision and other areas of council business.

Ms Willshire added that the mitigation measures outlined to Citizens Advice were flawed, as it was already accessing the other funding streams it could, and questioned why funding the service through reserves was acceptable when the county council refused to do the same for its own budget.

Councillor Richard Rout, cabinet member for environment and public protection, said: “Suffolk Trading Standards does take referrals and notifications directly from CAB offices in Suffolk, which are gratefully received.

“These are relatively very small in number and made up less than 4% of our total referrals and notifications in 2018.

“When members of the public have concerns about potential rogue traders or dangerous goods, for example, they are always recommended to contact the national Citizens Advice consumer helpline for advice. These calls will then be referred to Suffolk Trading Standards, if appropriate. The national helpline is a separate body to local CAB offices.

“Despite Suffolk County Council’s proposed grant reduction, I remain confident that CAB in Suffolk will continue to provide a valuable service to Suffolk residents, and that there will be no impact on Suffolk Trading Standards meeting any of its statutory duties.”

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