Decrease in funding to impact on advice service in Suffolk

A client being helped at Mildenhall Citizens Advice Bureau.

A client being helped at Mildenhall Citizens Advice Bureau. - Credit: Gregg Brown

An advice service which helps people with issues such as debt and benefits is facing funding cuts by Suffolk County Council of £40,000 over two years.

The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), which has branches across Suffolk, is looking at a reduction of £10,400 in 20015/16 and a further £29,600 the following year.

However, due to a 2% inflationary increase to be applied to the CAB budget in 2015/16 the funding reduction would actually be £2,413 for that year.

Final approval of the cuts is due to take place next month as part of agreeing the county council budget.

Jane Ballard, manager of the west Suffolk CAB, said: “In terms of looking at the future in terms of having an increasing reduction it will make balancing our budget extremely difficult, but in that first year it’s not as bad as it could be. The following year is going to be very difficult.”

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Combined with funding cuts from other sources, she described the county council reduction as a “creeping impact”.

She said demand for the service had actually been increasing, adding inquiries about benefits had now overtaken those regarding debt.

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County councillor Mark Ereira, who represents Suffolk County Council on west Suffolk CAB, said it was a “much-needed service” that guides people through the maze of Government bureaucracy.

Mr Ereira, who is leader of the Green and Independent Group, added: “The CAB service is absolutely vital to really vulnerable people.”

Funding to the bureaux is allocated through the Trading Standards service’s budget.

Colin Spence, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for public protection, said: “Due to the decrease in funding received from central Government it is necessary that we carefully consider the impact on Suffolk Trading Standards services and the funding we subsequently provide the CAB.”

He said previous budget reductions had not been passed on, but shouldered by the Trading Standards Service.

“The decision has been made to make this very small reduction in budget through the budget scrutiny process. Bureaux managers have understood the reason for this reduction in funding and understand the financial constraints that we are subject to.

“We will continue to work closely with the CAB to ensure we maintain our efficient service across Suffolk.”

Mrs Ballard added: “Suffolk County Council has been really good to us in terms of not implementing cuts until now. We are aware of how supportive they are and we are grateful to them.”

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