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Grant funding restored to Citizens Advice services in Suffolk after county council performs U-turn

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Citizens Advice Bureaux across Suffolk will have county council grant funding again from next year, after finance chiefs performed a U-turn on cuts.

The cash-strapped Suffolk County Council last year announced it would be axing the £368,000 subsidy it provided to CABs in Suffolk as part of a series of cuts to services.

That change was then phased over two years in light of furious biteback from the CABs, members of the public and opposition parties, and resulted in a zero-hour deal with the clinical commissioning groups to provide one year of grant funding.

Citizen's Advice. (24503160)
Citizen's Advice. (24503160)

Now, Conservative cabinet member for finance Gordon Jones has confirmed in the first draft of the council’s budget for next year that it would be restoring a CAB grant of £360,000 over three years – £120,000 a year.

The funding is understood to be given on the basis that the CABs become financially independent by the end of those three years.

Mr Jones said: “The proposal now is to give a settlement of £360,000 to Citizens Advice Bureaux spread over three years.

“I think a lot of the CABs understand that and are very much ready to have further transformation.

“There has been a lot in the west of the county and that’s a direction they are going to replicate.”

Addressing the question of why a grant has been restored, Mr Jones added: “We have had a better settlement than in previous years – we actually have one of the best settlements since 2010 – but it is only a one year settlement.”

The CABs will still get the £180,000 for this year pledged by the CCGs, according to the council.

Nicky Willshere, chief officer of the Ipswich CAB, said: “We are pleased Suffolk County Council has understood and responded to the absolute necessity of our services across the county.

“We continue to work hard to provide support and advice to all corners of the county, especially to the most vulnerable.

“It becomes increasingly difficult to find alternative sources of funding for our core to ensure continuity of service and to enable the project-funded work to continue, so this news is very welcome.

“The Suffolk trustees and chief officers continue to explore all options to increase funding for our services. We are local charities and we rely on local support.

“The funding we receive from Suffolk County Council enables us to make a real difference across the county and we are very grateful for that, but disappointed that this funding has been reduced.”