Wed, 17 Jan 2018
WEST Berkshire Council could be left out of pocket if a proposed £80,000 funding cut to the Citizens Advice West Berkshire (CAWB) charity goes ahead.
According to CAWB, the service saved the council more than £300,000 by preventing housing evictions and homelessness last year, however, the charity says it would be forced to close if the funding cuts go ahead.
West Berkshire Council, which declined to comment on the figure, is proposing to slash CAWB’s funding by a third – from £120,000 to £40,000 – next year as part of a cost-cutting drive to save £10m.
CAWB chief executive Jan Rothwell said: “The £300,000 is just on housing.
“It’s a Treasury-approved model that the CAB use to calculate these figures.
“It’s based on actual work we do here – it all gets recorded and we then feed that information to the national CAB office who come back to us with the figures.”
She added: “We have told the council these figures are based on Treasury-approved models, it’s not something we have just made up.”
The service offers advice on a range of topics, including debt, benefits, housing and employment problems, as well as advice on legal matters, immigration and family and personal matters.
The West Berkshire branch dealt with 3,114 clients last year, many of whom were vulnerable, however this number is expected to rise with the roll out of Universal Credit across the district.
Asked to comment on the £300,000 figure, which has been publicly stated on leaflets at the CAWB office in Broadway House in Newbury throughout the last year, council spokeswoman Peta Stoddart-Crompton said: “The literature has only recently been drawn to our attention.
“However, we are not clear on how that figure was calculated and are therefore not able to comment further.”
When asked if the council had considered the amount it saves through the advice given to residents by CAWB, Ms Stoddart-Crompton added: “The council don’t provide this service and are therefore unable to estimate the saving.
“In the current economically-challenging environment, it is vital that services evolve in order to survive.
“CAWB provide a wide range of services and support.
“If the council were providing these, it is unlikely that they would be able to provide the full range of services as many are discretionary.”
A public consultation on the proposed cuts ended last week.
West Berkshire Council is hoping to shave £10million from its budget in 2018/19 as it continues to wrestle with a decrease in government funding and an increased demand on its services.
Over the past eight years, West Berkshire Council has had to find savings of £55m while funding to local authorities from central government has decreased significantly over that time.
The council’s Revenue Support Grant (worth £33.7m in 2011/12) will fall to just £100,000 in 2018/19.
The grant will then be phased out completely by 2019/20.