Five-week wait to see debt advisors

PEOPLE with serious money worries face five-week waits to speak with debt advisors in west Suffolk because of huge demand caused by rising living costs and the credit crunch.

Laurence Cawley

PEOPLE with serious money worries face five-week waits to speak with debt advisors in west Suffolk because of huge demand caused by rising living costs and the credit crunch.

Thousands of pounds in extra funding is being sought by the Citizens Advice Bureaus in Newmarket, Brandon and Mildenhall to help them support those struggling with their finances.

The scale of the problem has become so serious in west Suffolk that in just six weeks, advisors in Newmarket and Brandon saw 48 people who had an accumulated debt of £819,000.


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That compares with 372 people who saw advisors in Newmarket during the whole of last year who had an accumulated debt of £1.2million.

Forest Heath District Council, which part funds the CAB offices in Newmarket, Brandon and Mildenhall, said each office was operating waiting lists for appointments.

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At Brandon and Mildenhall waiting lists are currently between four and five weeks unless emergency action is needed.

The council's community services chairman Nigel Roman said: “Unfortunately we are in a situation where money is tight because we live in the countryside and fuel costs are exorbitantly high and the amount of money people are being paid, bearing in mind current prices, is not enough.

“It must be frustrating for the CAB workers - they do a colossal amount of work.”

Sudbury CAB has changed its procedures so that people with money concerns attend a drop-in session twice before being allocated with a money advisor.

Sudbury bureau manager Ann Furlonger said the idea was to investigate whether anything else can be done before a client is linked up with a dedicated advisor. This, she said, often proved fruitful and ensured the CAB was making best use of its resources.

“At the moment we are still able to offer a first appointment with a case worker within two or three weeks.

“It does go in fits and starts with February, March and April being busy times because people's credit cards have caught up with them after Christmas. This year in particular though we have had rising council tax, rises in food costs and rising fuel costs which doesn't only affect car drivers but those, especially in our area, whose central heating runs on oil. It has hit people seriously.”

She said the Sudbury CAB was currently having to turn away as many people as it was seeing: “We could certainly double what we do without advertising it.”

West Suffolk MP Richard Spring said: “There has been a huge increase in problems with debt. People are being adversely affected by the credit crunch. It is a particular problem. The CAB does a wonderful job and we are extremely grateful to them.”

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