YSTRADGYNLAIS Citizen’s Advice Bureau is threatened with closure following the news that Powys County Council is proposing to cut its funding.
Powys CAB – whose offices in Newtown and Brecon are also under threat – has now launched an urgent campaign to oppose the council’s controversial plan that will see vulnerable people in the Swansea Valley without specialist advice on debt, housing, employment and welfare.
Chris Mann, chair of the CAB’s Trustee Board, said: “In 2013 Powys CAB dealt with 21,194 advice issues; 6,134 clients assisted and secured £2.2m in welfare benefit income for clients.
“This money is fed straight back into the overall economy of Powys.”
The council’s core funding provides the infrastructure for the bureau to bid for other contracts to deliver services to the residents of Powys. These are currently valued at over £336,000 for 2013/14 and would be lost.
The threat of closure will see all CAB’s paid and volunteer staff lose their jobs, with the residents of Powys only able to turn to the council for help.
“I doubt they (the council) will be able to cope,” said one CAB worker. “They’ve only got a small welfare rights unit and they’ll be getting hundreds of wide-ranging inquiries every day.”
A campaign to “Save Our CAB” has already begun on social media involving politicians in London and Cardiff, doctors and other health professionals.
Responding, Cllr Darren Mayor, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Services, said: “The council is facing a £20m shortfall in the coming financial year and a staggering £40m gap over the next three years following on a 4.5 per cent cut in overall funding from the Welsh Government.
“One of the savings proposed is to cut the funding for general advice services currently commission by Adult Social Care, which include all of the core funding that Powys Citizens Advice Bureau receives.
“Although we appreciate the valuable service Powys CAB provides, the council has to prioritise how it spends its scarce resources. With Adult Social Care, priority has been placed on front line services to people who meet the eligibility criteria, and on specialist information and advice services to those group of people.
“Saving of £5.3m are required from the service and the council are being presented with some very difficult decisions, including cutting the funding for general advice services. Unfortunately, with the budget pressures faced by the council, it has not been possible to identify other funding streams from other services.
“The Cabinet will be considering the proposals on February 18 and their recommendations will be going to full Council to set the budget on February 25. We will contact Powys Citizens Advice Bureau once a decision has been made.”