Citizen’s Advice funding cut sparks Beccles community fight

Proposals to withdraw the funding – worth £375,000 to Citizens Advice across Suffolk during 2017/18

Proposals to withdraw the funding – worth £375,000 to Citizens Advice across Suffolk during 2017/18 – were announced by Suffolk County Council (SCC) on November 14. Picture: Contributed - Credit: Archant

A petition to save the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) in Beccles has been launched after the council proposed to pull funding.

Last month, the Suffolk County Council proposed to halve, then completely withdraw funding to the service by 2020.

Since the announcement, the community have protested to keep the counselling service in their area and hope to bring together enough signatures to save it.

Jeff Harris, who is a CAB General Adviser and Beccles Town Councillor has been volunteering at CAB for 15 years.

After 41 years of teaching, Mr Harris began volunteering at the branch on New Market.

Mr Harris said: “Government papers, both national and locally, have a footnote stating that if the client has a problem reading, understanding or completing forms they are advised to visit their local CAB.

“Several of our regular clients are illiterate and a larger number need basic advice understanding complex communications and assistance in responding. Many of our older clients have no access to computers, a growing requirement from many authorities. Some clients seem to have the basic need of talking over problems with a trained listener,” Mr Harris said.

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“To cut the CAB budget severely would be a thoughtless act of social vandalism – it is time to break into the counties reserves,” he added.

Councillor Richard Rout, cabinet member for Environment and Public Protection, said: “Capturing the views of residents who use local Citizens Advice (CAB) is important to us. We met with members of the public, CAB representatives and councillors from all political parties last month to discuss the proposed reduction in funding. Following on from this, and the Scrutiny Committee process, we are now proposing a period of phased grant reduction to alleviate the concerns raised and to help Suffolk’s CAB plan their finances for years to come.

“Our consultation is the best way for residents to tell us how they currently use the CAB service. We also want to hear how they may be impacted, specifically from an equality perspective, by any potential changes to funding. As part of this engagement process, I will be visiting and speaking to each of the Suffolk CAB.”

Details for the consultation and the survey can be found on the Suffolk County Council website and paper surveys will be distributed to CAB offices and libraries.