Cuts may affect charity’s ‘core advice service’

Jane Ballard, district manager of Suffolk West Citizens Advice Bureau, for Bigger Read feature.
Jane Ballard, district manager of Suffolk West Citizens Advice Bureau, for Bigger Read feature.

West Suffolk Citizens Advice Bureau faces a cut in funding after one council voted to reduce its contribution by more than a third.

Forest Heath District Council’s cabinet has voted to reduce the guaranteed funding to the branch, which gives assistance to people with legal and money problems.

Jane Ballard, district manager of West Suffolk Citizens Advice Bureau, said the decision would affect the bureau’s core service of offering a place for people to access advice.

This year the council gave £66,640 to the Citizens Advice Bureau branch, which has offices in Bury St Edmunds, Brandon, Haverhill and Mildenhall.

This will be reduced to £47,900 in 2014-15 and £39,650 in 2015-16.

The council will make further funding available for community and voluntary groups, including the Citizens Advice Bureau, to bid for.

This will be £25,000 in 2014-15 and £30,000 in 2015-16.

Mrs Ballard said: “We recognise local authority budgets are being squeezed and they are getting less money from central government.

“Our difficulty is that bidding into a pot of money for specific project work needs to rest on the core service.

“We still have a large number of people coming in needing general advice.

“If you reduce the grant to the core service and ask that gradually there’s an emphasise towards doing project work there’s going to be an impact.”

Robin Millar, Forest Heath District Council’s cabinet member for families and communities, said: “The Citizens Advice Bureau is a valued provider and I’m sure it will have a strong bid to put forward.”

Cllr Millar said the cuts to the West Suffolk branch were partly driven by a need to align their grant with the funding given to the charity’s Newmarket branch.

He said it was hoped the cuts would ‘encourage new ways of working’.