Suffolk

Suffolk County Council agrees to cut Citizens Advice grant

Suffolk County Council HQ
Image caption Councillors agreed to phase out Citizens Advice funding over a two-year period

A grant for Citizens Advice services across Suffolk has been cut as part of the county council's bid to save £20m.

It was part of a package of savings agreed by the council's cabinet for the 2019-20 budget.

The council said it wanted to put more money into children's services and adult social care.

Citizens Advice staff and volunteers held a protest against the withdrawal of funding outside the council's headquarters.

Councillors agreed to phase out the funding over a two-year period.

More than 6,000 people signed a petition in a bid to save the grant, which will save the council £370,000 over two years.

Budget cut

Nicky Wilshere, chief officer at Ipswich Citizens Advice, said the money from the council covered essentials, including rent and electricity.

"Up to a 40% cut in core funding, I don't have an option to pay 40% less rent," she said.

"We fundraise every day of the week to keep our services open. We undertake projects, attract additional income but none of it covers core funding."

She said they can get funding to deliver projects but "if we don't exist as a centre, we can't deliver them from anywhere".

Janet John, chief executive at the North East Suffolk branch, said: "For the clients in rural areas, where are they going to access services?"

Councillor Richard Rout said he had been meeting with partners and Citizens Advice managers.

He said he was "confident" they could make up the 8.5% reduction in their core funding through looking at their structure, outside funding and premises costs "to mitigate this cut and continue their service".

The overall budget increased from £500.5m in 2018-19 to £514.8m in 2019-20.

Councillors agreed:

  • A 3.99% council tax rise next year, including the adult social care precept
  • A halt to road sign cleaning, with only mandatory road markings being maintained
  • Reducing housing-related support for people in their own tenancies
  • A review of arrangements with district and borough councils for grass cutting and weed treatment services
  • Reducing the legal, training and equipment costs at trading standards

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