Sudbury's Citizen Advice criticises "short-sighted" planned cuts to charity's grant
A trustee of Sudbury’s Citizens Advice says he hopes Suffolk County Council will reconsider plans to cut the charity’s £44,000 grant.
The advice service, which operates from Keyse House in Acton Lane, dealt with 3,000 inquiries last year, and trustee Robert Spivey said demand for help from residents is increasing year on year.
A former town mayor, Mr Spivey said the proposed cut represents a loss of almost a third of the charity’s budget.
It needs £150,000 a year to operate.
It receives annual grants of £53,000 from Babergh District Council, £44,000 from Suffolk County Council and £8,000 from Sudbury Town Council, with the rest coming from parish councils, grant-giving bodies and the charity’s own fundraising.
A lot of its work is carried out by volunteers who do not get paid.
Commenting on the work the charity does to help people with free advice on money, legal, consumer rights and other problems, he said: “If we don’t do it, who is going to do it?
“Well, the answer is the council will have to do it. There is obviously a need for the service, and how is it going to deliver it?”
Last week, calls were made for proposed funding cuts to Suffolk’s Citizens Advice network of £368,000 to be phased out, rather than stopped in one go.
Suffolk County Council wants to take the funding away as part of £11 million of cuts in its draft budget for 2019.
The plans drew criticism from the charity, which said its services represented value for money, and that any cuts would hit the families it serves. Concerns were also raised over the short length of time it would have to make preparations.
At a Suffolk County Council meeting, councillors backed proposals for the cuts to be staggered to give the service more time to find alternative funding streams.
Mr Spivey added: “I’d rather they didn’t make the cut in the first place but, if it could be staggered, it would help. We were told about the cut two weeks ago with no consultation.”
He said the universal credit system was set to throw up yet more demand from people.
“It’s going to put a lot more stress on people who are already anxious,” he added.
Sudbury county councillor Jack Owen, who did not attend the scrutiny meeting, said he thought the grant cut plan was short-sighted.
“It would add a greater workload to the council if people could not get help from Citizens Advice,” he said. “There have got to be other options.”
County councillor Robert Lindsey added: “This thoughtless and heartless policy needs to be reversed. Apart from anything else, it flies against common sense to cut a service which is actually saving the council more money than it costs.”