Trustees and volunteers of Citizens Advice Cornwall today expressed their concern about proposed cuts by Cornwall Council which could lead to a 53% reduction in funding to the charity.
Under the council’s draft budget for 2017/18, Citizens Advice Cornwall would have its funding cut from £356,000 to just £153,000, which would have a major impact on the service provided to thousands of people across the county. This could involve the closure of several offices and a reduction in staff and volunteers.
To help persuade the council to drop the cuts, the charity’s volunteers have launched a public online and paper petition to be sent to the council ahead of the final budget meeting next February.
Chair of Trustees, Sue Swift, said:
“Such a huge cut would mean a severe reduction in the number of people we can help, just at the time when we are seeing record numbers of people grappling with issues such as debt, benefit claims, housing, employment issues and discrimination.
“It also comes just as the Government is introducing sweeping reforms to the welfare system with the rollout of Universal Credit in Cornwall next year.”
Mrs Swift added:
“Our biggest concern is how people will access help or whether they will just suffer in silence. Last year we dealt with 19,000 cases at our offices from Bude and Saltash to Penzance. Some of these people are extremely vulnerable and we also offer emergency help with heating and foodbank vouchers.
“Cornwall is one of the poorest areas of the country and scaling back our services just when people are being squeezed with benefits reductions, low wages, increasing debt and rising inflation will cause more suffering.”
In 2016/17, Citizens Advice Cornwall helped gain £4.2 million in income for people in the county and wrote off a total of £5.8 million in person debt.
Mrs Swift said: “We are a cost effective charity because we’re helping bring money into Cornwall that would otherwise be lost. Our 164 volunteer advisers do an excellent job for no pay and last year committed a total of 29,017 hours to Citizens Advice worth £216,177.
“While we understand the council is under pressure to reduce spending, we think this is the wrong time to make such a large cut to our essential service.”
Volunteer adviser, Jonathon Calverley, who volunteers in the Falmouth office, said: “We are concerned about the effects the proposed cuts will have on the people we see on a daily basis.
“We would like anyone who supports our work to sign the petition and persuade councillors to vote against the cuts.”
The petition can be signed online at http://chn.ge/2B4sXVJ or in any Citizens Advice office.
Citizens Advice offers free, independent and impartial advice to all members of the community in Cornwall from offices in Saltash, Liskeard, Bodmin, St Austell, Newquay, Truro, Falmouth, Camborne and Penzance. Outreach sessions are also held in Launceston, Wadebridge, St Columb Major, Bude, Torpoint, Callington and St Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly.
Sessions are also held at Cornwall Council’s children’s centres across Cornwall.