East Cambs Council votes to axe £47,000 Citizens Advice Bureau funding after two hour debate with just two votes in it

PUBLISHED: 12:12 21 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:37 21 February 2020

Ely branch of Citizens Advice Rural Cambridgeshire (CARC) is pictured alongside Michael Mealing, chair of CARC. Picture: ARCHANT

Ely branch of Citizens Advice Rural Cambridgeshire (CARC) is pictured alongside Michael Mealing, chair of CARC. Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

Vital funding for the Citizens Advice Rural Cambs (CARC) will be axed after councillors voted against delaying a withdrawal despite a petition of more than 1,000 signatures.

The decision came following a two-hour debate at East Cambridgeshire District Council's (ECDC) full council meeting in Ely on February 20.

A motion was put forward by the Liberal Democrats urging members to delay the funding withdrawal of £47,000 in order to allow discussions on new arrangements.

It was defeated 13 votes to 11. Funding will cease on March 31 2020.

Speaking at the meeting last night, Cllr Matt Downey, said "more residents had written to him about this than about anything else since he was elected".

But ECDC leader Anna Bailey said it would mean that the council could provide a "extended service" and offer more Community Hubs in the district.

Volunteers, residents and councillors praised the work of the Citizen's Advice Bureau in Ely - which could now close due to lack of funding.

Michael Mealing, chair of CARC, said it was a "crippling loss of core funding".

"We are very disappointed that a motion that would have delayed the withdrawal of funding was narrowly defeated at the council meeting," he said.

"During a robust discussion lasting almost two hours, which included consideration of a petition signed by over 1,000 people urging a delay, no criticisms of CARC's performance were made.

"A number of councillors and several members of the public, who participated in the debate, praised the work of the CAB and the cost-effective contribution of its 20 volunteers.

"Nevertheless, the council decided to implement the results of an internal review of advice services, which CARC had not been involved in.

"An emergency meeting of the trustee board has been organised for February 27, when CARC's response to this crippling loss of core funding will be decided.

"Citizens Advice Rural Cambs would like to thank the volunteers, employees, clients and members of the public, who voiced their support.

"In the interests of these people CARC will co-operate fully with ECDC in making the change to what will be significantly different arrangements for the provision of advice to local residents."

Cllr Lorna Dupre added: "This is very sad as the local CAB chair makes it clear that he will have no option but to recommend that the CAB close its office in Ely."

The full statement from leader of ECDC, Councillor Anna Bailey, in regards to the decision is below.

"We understand this is an important decision and it is one which has been made very carefully. We have been totally focused on making sure our residents get the most preventative, holistic, accessible, and immediate service possible...the best service we can give people.

"We have a growing district and a growing level of need and we must be geared up to fully support people.

"The funding for this element of the service is reviewed on an annual basis and the review found that there were a significant number of duplicated areas of support.

"The decision taken increases the level of investment into the service and the resource available to support people.

"This means the council is now in a position to provide an extended service which includes residents being able to get face to face, immediate advice and support five days a week.

"We also provide an out of hours service and visit people in their own homes. In addition, we take our service out into communities, offering support in our Community Hubs.

"These are informal spaces in a number of locations, supported by multiple agencies, and designed to make the service more accessible to people that may feel worried about approaching the council.

"The new investment means we can roll out more Community Hubs across the district.

"By bringing the service in-house, we have also been able to use ring-fenced funding from central government to create four new adviser roles to support residents. This is funding which is not available to other alternative providers.

"I am hugely proud of the track record of our Housing and Community Safety Team which has earned national recognition for the way it supports people to get their lives back on track and prevent homelessness.

"The changes mean that we will be able to support people with all their issues, including issues involving regulated financial advice.

"We will be providing a truly holistic, accessible and immediate service for people - we will do what it takes to help people get back on track."

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