Calls have been made for Wrexham Council to give a funding boost to the local Citizens Advice Service to help put a stop to its “imminent closure”.
The calls have been made by members of the council’s Labour Group, who have submitted a ‘Notice of Motion’ ahead of the council annual meeting on Wednesday.
It has been made in relation to the future of the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), located on Grosvenor Road, which could close this summer following the “phasing out” of core funding from Wrexham Council over the past two years.
A report on the proposed phasing out of funding to the service was presented and approved by executive board members in Part 2 – meaning press and public were excluded from the meeting – in October 2015.
Wrexham is the only local authority in Wales who now make no contribution to such ‘citizen advice’ services.
The motion submitted by the five councillors calls on Wrexham Council to: “Support our local Citizens Advice Service by providing a grant of £50,000 in this financial year to avoid its imminent closure and followed by a review, prior to the end of this current financial year, of Wrexham’s CAB’s viability needs for the following year”.
The motion has been signed by Leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Dana Davies, Cllr Malcolm King, Cllr Graham Rogers, Cllr Brian Cameron and Cllr Paul Jones.
Staff at the town’s CAB office on Grosvenor Road provide free in-depth advice to thousands of clients from the Wrexham and district area each year. The range of cases covers everything from benefits queries to debt advice, housing issues, people’s rights at work, consumer rights and immigration.
Earlier this month Wrexham MP Ian Lucas also urged Wrexham Council to reconsider its decision to withdraw funding from the service.
Mr Lucas, who has written to the council’s executive director Lee Robinson and deputy leader Hugh Jones about the matter, says Wrexham Council “should not be contracting advice services when people desperately need them”.
Mr Lucas added: “Citizens Advice Wrexham provides a vital service and it would be devastating for the people of the town if it was lost.
“The council’s Welfare Rights Unite quite simply does not have the capacity to cover everything handled by the CA office. They only deal with benefits and charge in certain cases.
“They don’t cover debt advice, immigration, consumer rights, small claims, housing applications, rights at work, probate forms, neighbour disputes, divorce and separation, complaints about the Health Service or care homes, or power of attorney matters.
“We can’t afford to lose the town’s CA office and the situation is now extremely urgent.”
At the time Leader of Wrexham Council, Mark Pritchard said: “Wrexham Council made the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) aware in February 2016 that core funding would be phased out over the following two years, after a decision made by the Executive Board on October 13, 2015.
“Senior staff at CAB would also have been made privy to the possibilities of such funding being phased out over a two year period prior to the decision made at Executive Board.
“With the above in mind, we are surprised to see comments from Mr Lucas regarding CAB’s appeal for further funding, and accompanying comments on possible service impacts – this would all have been discussed in late 2015 and early 2016, and Mr Lucas would have been aware of those discussions at that time.
He added: “CAB will have been well aware of all possible ramifications during this time, and have had ample time to seek other possible routes of funding, including a more sustainable model of cost recovery through projects and service contracts going forward.”
The ‘Part 2’ secret debate from 2015 that has been referenced as the time the decision was effectively made is described and minuted on the records of the meeting, copied below, where the “Phase out of the CAB core funding over a 2 year period” is ‘resolved’.