Conservatives press for rethink on Advice Service cuts

Conservative councillors in Bath and North East Somerset are to press for a rethink on planned cutbacks to the Council’s advice services, which are currently run by the Citizens Advice Bureau under contract for the authority.

Liberal Democrat-run B&NES is currently planning a 60% cut to the amount of money spent on its advice service contract with the Citizens Advice Bureau, sparking protests by both volunteers at the CAB and those who have used the service.

The issue is set to be discussed by councillors this Thursday after a petition against the cuts gained over 4,000 signatures, automatically forcing a debate on subject at a Full Council meeting.

Conservative councillors have said they will use the opportunity to call upon the Council to halt the current cutbacks whilst work is undertaken on producing an Advice Services Strategy for the authority.

Conservatives have criticised the Liberal Democrats for their ‘salami slicing’ approach to cutting the budget and have said the Council should not be pushing ahead with the planned budget reductions before it has an Advice Services Strategy in place.

Conservative Shadow Spokesman for Wellbeing, Cllr Vic Pritchard, said:

“The proposed changes to the Council’s advice services have been completely mishandled right from the start. Both the people who use the CAB and those who run the service have felt left in the dark over the Council’s plans. The Liberal Democrats need to call a pause to the process, listen to what local people are saying and rethink their current approach.

“People see real value in having a high-profile, easily accessible, generalist advice service like the CAB. Many people rely upon these services during times of hardship. But the scale of cutbacks currently planned by B&NES put this valued service at risk.

“It defies belief that the Council can cut a budget by as much as 60% before it has even decided what service it actually wants delivered. Before the Council ploughs ahead with these cutbacks, it needs to decide what it wants from its advice services and publish a proper Advice Services Strategy. It can then agree what level of funding is required to deliver these services.”