Torbay CAB given breathing space over proposed £30,000 cut to budget
ADVISORS helping Torbay residents cope with the impact of the financial crisis and benefits changes have won a breathing space from their own budget cuts.
After an impassioned plea to councillors by the director of Torbay Citizens Advice Bureau, Mayor Gordon Oliver has agreed to delay a proposed £30,000 cut to its grant.
Cllr Chris Lewis, portfolio holder for the advice service, said the Mayor had accepted his recommendation to delay and reconsider the cuts after hearing of the problem it would pose the CAB at the overview and scrutiny board considering the budget proposals.
Torbay CAB faced a £30,000 grant cut to £129,000, a 20 per cent reduction described as 'a cut too far'. District manager John Cooper told councillors it would mean a 20 to 25 per cent drop in the number of people helped at a time of financial crisis and fundamental welfare reforms.
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In a year, the CAB has dealt with 13,945 contacts from people seeking advice covering 24,172 separate issues including housing, welfare benefits, tax credits, employment and relationships. Mr Cooper said: "Through our work we have increased people's incomes by over £1.7million and helped people manage £14million of debt. Between April and December last year, there was a 22 per cent increase in the number of people we saw and the demand for our services will only grow."
Together with Government funding changes the CAB faced a 40 per cent budget cut.
Cllr David Thomas, a CAB trustee, told the board: "This cut affects the most vulnerable people in our society. Take away this final safety net and where would people go? It's a cut too far."
The board also heard that the three-year agreement with the CAB was due to expire in March and the council was looking to extend the agreement by 12 months only.
Cllr John Thomas, chairman of the overview and scrutiny board, said the cut to the CAB was 'unacceptable' and £30,000 was 'a small amount' considering the £10million savings that Torbay Council has to make next year.
Nigel Denning, the council's head of families, told the board: "We're talking to the CAB about the impact of the proposed cut and how we can work together to minimise the impact."
Cllr Lewis said following the meeting that Mayor Oliver had agreed to a year's reprieve during which time they would discuss potential avenues of money making or savings with the CAB. For example, he said Torbay Council had a team which helps people with benefits and there may be duplication.
He said: "We have to look at whether we're doing things right. In some areas we can work together to provide a service that's as good, if not better. The key to the future is doing things differently and doing things together."
Cllr Lewis said Mayor Oliver had agreed his recommendation that the decision be announced now rather than wait for the scrutiny board report in February.