East Suffolk Citizens Advice funding secured – but will services merge?
- Credit: Archant
East Suffolk Council has agreed to continue funding nearly £200,000 a year to Citizens Advice for three years, as work to merge the three branches is explored.
The council's cabinet on Tuesday agreed to maintain funding of £199,600 per annum - £78,000 for the North East Suffolk CAB, £63,900 for Leiston and Saxmundham and £57,700 for the Felixstowe and District branch.
MORE: Economic value of Citizens Advice in Suffolk revealedSuffolk County Council restored some of its grant funding to CABs just one year after announcing plans to axe its funding entirely, with that figure now at £120,000 countywide compared to £368,000 previously.
But that cash is on the condition that the seven CABs making efficiencies to become four.
West Suffolk has already merged its bureaux, with the expectation on East Suffolk that its three branches would become one East Suffolk entity.
However, it is not yet clear what impact that may have on services or where they would be based.
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As part of that, East Suffolk pledged an additional £7,500 to help the three bureaux secure independent support on its transformation programme over the next 12 months.
Councillor Letitia Smith, East Suffolk's cabinet member for communities, leisure and tourism, said: "East Suffolk have three Citizens Advice services which provide vital support to some of the more vulnerable people in our communities.
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"Last year, they helped write off £1.65million worth of debt and increase income gain by £1.2m between them.
"East Suffolk Council wants to support the services to work together and have offered this additional funding to enable them to seek independent support to explore the opportunities available and different ways of working which will enable them to achieve greater sustainability in the future."
Opposition councillors welcomed the continued funding for the service, but said a long term commitment was needed.
Labour group leader Peter Byatt said the funding should reflect the disproportionate need in Lowestoft and added: "we can't have a vital service not being able to put together long-term plans if they are forever going around with a begging bowl to SCC and others".
MORE: Fears raised that CABs are being forced into organisational changeGreen group leader Graham Elliott said it was "imperative that this transformation has no impact on the front line service that the CAB provides".
A spokesman from Citizens Advice has been approached for comment.