Suffolk advice charities have warned they will have to make 'difficult choices' if their county council decides to axe a £400,000 grant in what would be the latest blow to a county that has been hit hard by legal aid reforms.
Suffolk County Council's proposed cut was revealed in a pre-decision scrutiny paper of the local authority's 2019/20 budget, which will be discussed on Thursday.
John Ashton, chair of the Sudbury and District Citizens, said Suffolk's Citizens Advice network is 'dismayed' at the proposed cut: 'We are seriously concerned about the impact of this proposal on our communities, especially on the most vulnerable. It would be very difficult to find alternative sources of funding in time to ensure continuity of service. The Suffolk Trustees and Chief Officers will now consider all options for managing a potentially reduced budget, should the decision remain unchanged.'
The chief officers of Citizens Advice in Suffolk cited research showing that every pound invested in Citizens Advice generates at least £1.88 in savings to government and public services and £11.43 in wider economic and social benefits.
They said: 'If agreed, these cuts would be a significant reduction in our budgets and will lead to difficult choices. We will work closely with our partners, staff and volunteers to make the best decisions we can in the circumstances.'
Suffolk Law Centre director Audrey Ludwig says the cut would be a 'disaster' for vulnerable people needing help with social welfare issue.
The council says it has 'some really tough calls to make' to balance its budget in the next financial year and beyond. The cut, should it proceed, will be the latest in a series of woes for the East Anglia county, which had recently become a legal aid advice 'desert', with no providers in public law, housing and asylum law.