FUNDING cuts have resulted in the closure of Redditch’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau after almost half a century.
Trustees agreed last week the service should cease on Monday, February 2 due to continuing difficulties accessing funding to continue to meet increasing demand for its services.
For the last two years the bureau has been using its reserves to keep the service going, which has been running in the town since 1969.
But in recent years the bureau has lost a number of contracts as there are more and more charities applying for fewer and fewer pots of money while they have also found it difficult to compete for work against larger organisations.
On top of that their core funding has been dwindling. According to Redditch CAB the service received £120,000 from Redditch Borough Council 12 years ago but that was cut to £90,000 and now £75,000 for 2015/16. Funding from Worcestershire County Council has also fallen to less than £17,000 a year.
The service has tried numerous measures to keep the service going including staff agreeing to go onto short-time temporarily, reducing opening hours and making the service more efficient. But with funding for the financial year predicted to be less than half of that currently, trustees were left with no choice but to call in insolvency practitioners to consult with staff and volunteers and it was decided there was no option other than closure.
In total 11 staff face losing their jobs.
Moira Morris, bureau manager, told the Standard: “It is ironic that at a time when the service in Redditch is experiencing high demand from the public for independent and impartial advice in addressing the many changes that impact on their lives and as we all face the challenges following the economic downturn with it’s continuing impact on our lives, that there remains little recognition of our work.
“People who have never had need of our services seem to not value how we assist people in solving problems or even acknowledge that we are an independent local charity that needs funding in order to support the delivery of our advice services.
“Over the past two years we have tried re-engineering our services to greater effect while meeting the technological advances that we need to deliver these services. We are now placed in a position where available sources of funding are themselves limited by funders creating a perfect storm for us in Redditch.”
Access to advice will continue to be provided by Citizens’ Advice through its membership network via the
Worcestershire Advice Line service on 0344 4111 444 operating from 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday. Redditch residents with open cases will be contacted directly in February.
Bromsgrove CAB is expected to be provide support in the interim period while work on a new service, expected to start in the summer, is finalised.
But there are no details as yet of what services the replacement organisation will be able to provide or if it will be able to deal with the number of people the existing Redditch CAB helped, which reached over 3,000 during 2013/14.
Council leader Bill Hartnett said: “I am keen the council work in partnership with CitA to ensure the new service maximises the benefits of the council’s own transformation work in order to provide much needed support to people in these continuing difficult times.”
For more on this story see Friday’s Redditch Standard.