Bath and North East Somerset Council has announced a partial climb-down over plans to cut funding for the Citizens Advice Bureau by over 55%.
During questioning by Conservative councillors at a recent meeting of the authority’s Wellbeing Policy Development and Scrutiny Committee, it was revealed the scale of cuts to advice services would be reduced by nearly half in the Council’s forthcoming budget plans, from a previously planned cut of £225,000 to £118,000.
The announcement comes in the wake of a high-profile campaign by the local Citizens Advice Bureau, whose petition against the cuts gained enough signatures to force a debate on the issue at a Council meeting last November. During the November meeting, Conservative councillors successfully tabled a resolution which called on the Council to rethink its previous plans.
The decision to reduce the scale of cuts to advice services marks the latest in a series of budget U-turns by the Council’s ruling Liberal Democrats, who had previously argued that the Council was too cash-strapped to make any concessions.
Opposition Conservatives have welcomed the announcement, but have said that the revised plans need to be looked at in more detail before it can be decided whether the concession goes far enough.
Conservative shadow Wellbeing spokesman, Cllr Vic Pritchard, who also chairs the Council’s Wellbeing scrutiny panel, said:
“This climb-down by B&NES will come as a relief to everyone who values the work of the Citizens Advice Bureau, which does a tremendous job of providing advice services to local residents of all backgrounds in need of help and support. However, this is only a partial victory as B&NES is still proposing a significant funding cut of nearly 30%. We will therefore need to look at the revised plans carefully before deciding whether the Council has gone far enough to properly protect this important service.
“The campaigners fighting to defend our local CAB should be thanked for their tremendous efforts. I’m just pleased that Conservative councillors have been able to play a part in forcing B&NES to reconsider its plans.
“It’s just a real shame it has taken such huge public pressure to make the Lib Dems listen to our concerns and understand the impact their plans would have.
“The Council completely mishandled the tendering of its advice service contract from the start, embarking upon it with no strategy in place and no clear idea of what service it wanted delivered.”