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26/01/2011

Apres moi le deluge


This may not be the first such announcement, but it is certainly the biggest to date. Birmingham Citizens Advice has had £600,00 per year of Local Authority funding cut. Unless alternative funding of £50,000 per month is found, it will close its generalist advice centres from 11 February 2011.

The CAB claims that they assisted 56,000 people last year and it is the largest CAB in the country. They estimate that they assisted clients in applying for or appeallng decision on income of about £16 million and to manage about £85 million of debt.

Transition funds will not be accessible in time and Birmingham City Council ‘replacement’ funds – a much smaller pot open to bids from 14 charities, to be allocated in £50,000 blocks over 1 to 3 years – will not be available in any event until August 2011.

The CAB are urgently asking for donations to fund them in the short term while they attempt to secure longer term funds.

My understanding is that the Social Welfare law contract (joint with Shelter) and the ‘preventing homelessness’ advice at the County Court (not the duty scheme as first suggested – that is run by CLP) are not directly affected. However, there are surely intertwined economics of provision even if just in terms of office space, admin support and facilities.

Birmingham Council, a ConDem coalition, appear to be blithely ignoring the DCLG recommendations that Councils should not take the easy option and cut funding to the voluntary sector. One takes it that Grant Shapps and Eric Pickles will be very disappointed in Brum (but take no action at all).

[Update: Birmingham City Council respond that

“We’ve always made it clear to agencies that funding was not guaranteed beyond any single year, up to a maximum of three years. It was never our intention for agencies to become dependent upon this source of funding, or that it form their sole source of income. However, we did pay CAB £150,000 notice payment”.

That first sentence has the dubious distinction of making no sense whatsoever. On ‘dependency’, the CAB point out that the £600,000 was 20% of their funding, but that they can’t afford to lose 20% when funding from other sources is also dropping by £1.2 million for 2011. The income was £3 milion in 2009/10.]

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

8 Comments

  1. lawminx

    Absolutely Condemnable in every sense of that now odious and INFAMOUS word.
    This country is about to go to hell in a handcart, with outmoded and offensive concepts of the deserving poor, and heaven forfend, the workhouse, poised as solutions for the national woes on the lips of Nicolarse Clegg.

    Reply
  2. S

    I hope this makes the mainstream national media. It just goes to show that the Big Society without financial support from the state is not sustainable (at least not in the short to medium term).

    I – like you NL – would also love to know what Mr Pickles has to say about

    Reply
    • NL

      I think the Guardian may be picking it up (in which I humbly played a part via this post being re-tweeted [did I just write that] by others).

      But agreed – this is the face/farce of the big society/voluntary sector/legal aid slicing and the major media should pick up on this. A whole (very large) city’s CAB going down may just be big enough to register.

      Reply
  3. Chris

    Depressing and unsurprising. I know of funding being cut to the CAB and other charities that offer debt and housing advice.

    Long term it benefits no one and likely costs more for the tax payer as more people need housing from the local authority because they were unable to stay in their own homes.

    Reply
  4. bm

    The fact that CABx are having their ‘other’ sources of funding cut to the bone rather undermines the idea espoused in the LSC Green Paper that the likes of Shelter and CABx will be able to easily pick up those cases which were previously dealt with under legal aid. And of course, cutting this kind of funding is the most short-sighted of false economies. The CAB itself knows this better that most as it prepared a detailed bit of research into the cost/benefit of social welfare legal advice, which you can see here:

    http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/towards_a_business_case_for_legal_aid.pdf

    There are some useful headline stats in there (see the summary on p2) which some venerable organisations have already been shouting about. Anyone responding to the Green Paper then might find some useful ammunition in it. Your MP might be interested in it too.

    Reply
  5. simplywondered

    no – this must to be a mistake. the cab is what is going to pick up the slack from the soon-to-be-closed law centres.

    i sighted several instances of the phrase ‘unelected judges’ this week.

    the big society is looking something like beirut from where i’m sitting.

    Reply

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