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Suffolk Citizens Advice branches granted partial reprieve over Suffolk County Council funding cuts

A charity facing a complete withdrawal of its council grant has been granted a partial reprieve.

Suffolk County Council planned to save £368,000 by axing grants to the county’s Citizens Advice branches next year.

It was part of a slew of proposed cuts to help shave £22 million in the next financial year to balance the authority’s budget.

Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich.
Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich.

However, following a scrutiny meeting last week and appeals from Citizens Advice bosses, the authority has decided to phase the cuts so the charity will receive £184,000 in 2019/2020 but the funding will end the following year.

Jane Ballard and Carol Eagles, managers at Suffolk West and Mid Suffolk Citizens Advice branches, said they were ‘pleased that Suffolk County Council recognised the problems caused to the most vulnerable in Suffolk from its proposed complete cut in funding’ but concerns remain about the future.

“Although it’s a great relief to hear that the council is no longer planning a complete withdrawal of funding in 2019/20, we remain concerned the council intends to cut our funding by 100 per cent over the next two years,” they said in a joint statement.

“We already work hard to raise funds from a diverse range of sources and we believe it is extremely unlikely that we will be able to fill this gap in funding for our core services from elsewhere.

“Our priority is those who need us, and we will work closely with the county council to support vulnerable residents.”

We believe it is extremely unlikely that we will be able to fill this gap in funding for our core services from elsewhere - Jane Ballard and Carol Eagles

They noted that Richard Rout, cabinet member for environment and public protection, ‘has been concerned to understand how this change will affect the charities’ work, and his visits to Citizens Advice offices are appreciated’.

“We look forward to working with him and his team in the coming months to secure this vital service to the communities in Suffolk,” they added.

Councillor Richard Rout. Picture: Mark Westley.
Councillor Richard Rout. Picture: Mark Westley.

Cllr Rout said last week’s scrutiny meeting was ‘very productive’ and he ‘particularly welcomed the views’ of Janet John, from North East Suffolk Citizens Advice, and Mel Jones, from Diss and Thetford Citizens Advice.

“I can confirm that we are now proposing a period of phased grant reduction to alleviate concerns and to help Suffolk’s Citizens Advice to plan ahead and establish new revenue options to ensure they find suitable funding for years to come,” he said.

“We are proposing this approach as we recognise the financial impact that a full reduction in grants would have next year.

“The council recognises the great work done by Citizens Advice, and I’m very grateful to the managers of all Suffolk’s Citizens Advice branches for engaging so positively with us during this very tough process.

“We will offer continuing support, including a training session with our external funding team to explore new funding opportunities.

“I am also visiting all nine Citizens Advice branches to better understand the differences between areas of the county in relation to funding streams and how we can offer advice and support.”

He noted that they now needed to identify where they could meet the shortfall that this year’s grant reduction would have saved as they still need to make savings of £22 million in 2019/20 but ‘there are no easy options left’.

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