20th Mar, 2019

Anger as Citizens Advice funding scrapped in Solihull

Felix Nobes 8th Jan, 2019 Updated: 8th Jan, 2019

RESIDENTS have slammed the council’s decision to axe Citizens Advice Solihull Borough’s funding, placing its future at risk.

But the council insists a new provider, Age UK, will offer an improved service in its place.

As we reported, CASB will in March lose all its long-standing financial support from Solihull Council.

Its town centre service at The Core in Theatre Square is expected to be closed by March 31, after an eviction notice has been issued at the council-owned premises.

Only a much reduced service at its Chelmsley Wood branch on Bosworth Drive will remain.

Its services have been open to the public in the borough for nearly 50 years.

Residents and councillors have slammed the potential loss of an organisation with a proven track record for helping the borough’s vulnerable.

CASB supports nearly 6,000 people a year – offering help and advice on matters including debt, benefits, housing and tax.

Observer reader Kate England commented: “What a shame. The CAB provides such a unique and invaluable service. Not good news.”

Another reader Patrick Joyce said: “Wasted thousands on the new walkway from the station! For what purpose?

“More interested in vanity projects than things which are of a practical purpose. Solihull Council is just like an old boys’ club as usual!”

Julia Collins Parsons said: “I’m shocked. It’s not necessarily the council’s fault – they are suffering from the cutbacks to all councils by the government – but to stop funding to CAB is unthinkable.”

Citizens Advice is a UK-wide service giving free, confidential legal and practical advice on social and financial issues.

CASB chiefs say the ‘devastating’ decision to wipe out its council funding – two thirds of its total income – was taken in the run-up to Christmas when its services were heavily oversubscribed.

The Solihull and Meriden Liberal Democrats have started a petition calling on Solihull council to explore the possibility of providing assistance to CASB to help continue its services.

It has already gained nearly 300 signatures.

Liberal Democrat councillor Laura McCarthy said: “I am very concerned about the impact this will have on Solihull residents.

“CAB has been helping us for five decades on a wide range of issues. The loss of these services will leave a huge hole.

“This may be the right decision for the council’s budget, but is it the right one for residents?”

Solihull Labour Party chairman Nick Stephens said: “Cuts to these groups will have a devastating effect for many Solihull residents, many of whom are the most vulnerable who rely on the groups for help with benefit claims and other legal issues.”

A new £240,000 contract to provide” community wellbeing services” was awarded to Age UK Solihull in partnership with mental health charity MIND, with CASB losing its bid for the contract.

The contract includes an extra £30,000 for an outreach workers service, to undertake crucial work within the community.

The council also claims the funding changes will streamline advice services and make them more efficient, cutting out duplication from different providers.

The services will be on offer at the council’s advice hub in the Core.

Council and CASB chiefs met last week to discuss what support can be offered to help give the organisation a presence in Solihull and its volunteers in the south.

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