Citizens Advice Bureau to shut up shop in Ely on March 31 in wake of East Cambs Council decision to axe funding

Lib Dem group leader at East Cambs Lorna Dupre said it was a “dreadful decision” to axe funding to C

Lib Dem group leader at East Cambs Lorna Dupre said it was a “dreadful decision” to axe funding to CARC. Picture; LIB DEMS - Credit: Archant

The Citizens Advice Bureau in Ely will close on March 31 following the axing by East Cambridgeshire District Council of a £47,000 annual grant.

"The decision to close was taken with great reluctance," said Michael Mealing, chairman of the trustees.

But without the cash previously provided by the district council "general and drop-in advice services can no longer be offered by Citizens Advice Rural Cambs (CARC) which is an independent locally funded charity".

The office - ironically leased from the council on a peppercorn rent - will close the day before the decision to axe funding takes effect.

He promised that some CARC services will continue.

"One of these will be Universal Credit Help to Claim, which will be provided under an arrangement made with the Job Centre," said the chairman.

He also said talks are being held to move clients to the advice services provided by the housing department of East Cambs Council.

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"Although the outcome of the discussions that have taken place between the council and CARC during the last few weeks is disappointing, it is important to note that the performance of CARC as an advice agency has not been criticised," said Mr Mealing.

"Most of the advice provided has been given by 20 volunteers, who typically have seen their role as a way of 'giving something back' to their local community. It will be particularly unfortunate if this contribution is lost as a result of the change.

Council leader Anna Bailey said she was "disappointed" by the outcome "however we recognise that this was a difficult choice to make".

She said: "We are pleased that CARC will still have a presence in the city within the Job Centre and CAB advice will still be available online and by phone.

"We are working with CARC to ensure a thorough handover takes place and that no member of the community will be at a disadvantage from the process."

From April 1 the council says it has the manpower and the ability to handle the work previously carried out by CARC.

Over 1,000 people have now signed a petition urging the funding to be re-instated. Petition organisers claim the council's lack of independence will see many reluctant to approach them for advice.

Lib Dem Opposition leader Lorna Dupre described the funding cut as a "dreadful decision with no real consultation. The chair of the committee responsible didn't know whether Citizens Advice had even been given a copy of the review the council did about them." More than 1,000 petition a petition to keep the grant funding.