Wrexham’s Citizens’ Advice has announced plans to “provide a reduced level of open door service” – including ceasing a service that has operated for 29 years and cutting its opening hours at its town centre site.
The Grosvenor Road service, which handled more than 16,000 cases over the past year, has had its core funding phased out by Wrexham Council.
In June 2018 Wrexham.com reported that the Citizens’ Advice Service had been issued a temporary reprieve of £25,000 from the council’s executive board. However this was half of the £50,000 requested by the service to prevent its “imminent closure”.
The council funding, along with £7,000 raised by volunteer Gwyn Evans and donations from clients, has allowed the charity to keep going until March 2019.
However as a result of the funding reduction from the council three years ago, the service has announced that “with regret it is now obliged to provide a reduced level of open door service” from the start of September.
As a result of the changes, the Chirk Outreach Service – which has been held on Monday mornings for over 29 years – will close. The last session will be held in Chirk Library on 10th September 2018.
The main office service ,from the beginning of September 2018, will see Wednesdays and Fridays open door generalist drop in advice service available – 9:30 am to 2:30 pm.
These changes mean the Citizens Advice Service will be closed three days a week (except for designated appointments) from September 3rd.
A statement released by the service, says: “The trustees, staff and volunteers at Citizens Advice Wrexham are pleased that Wrexham County Borough Council agreed to provide some support to enable some open door advice services to continue for the remainder of this year.
“We requested £50,000 but actually received a grant of only £25,000 from the Council, and have therefore done our best to raise additional funds through donations from the public.
“Gwyn Evans a volunteer raised over £7,000 from his campaign on ‘Just Giving’ based on his health issues, and we would take this opportunity to thank all those who have donated to this.
“We have also received many donations from clients visiting our service, all of it greatly appreciated and the funds raised will be applied to enabling our charity to keep going until March 2019.
“However, given the decrease in our council funding from £99,000 three years ago, to what we now have at our disposal, it is with regret that we are now obliged to provide a reduced level of open door service.
“We hope to continue dialogue with the Local Authority to secure funding for the future, to enable us to maintain a free, impartial, confidential high quality and independent service for people of Wrexham County Borough.”
It adds: “If our office is not open (Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays except for designated appointments, we can only advise potential clients to visit Contact Wrexham Building (Local Authority office) or Job Centre Plus 19 Grosvenor Road
“The dedicated directors, staff and 23 fully trained volunteer advisers who trained in their own time to qualify, acknowledge the devastating impact of this necessary action, particularly at a time when are services are needed more, not less, by the communities we serve.”
Wrexham MP Ian Lucas, who has backed a campaign to save the service from closure, has called on executive board members to see whether individual councillors support the funding cuts.
Mr Lucas said: I’m deeply concerned by the reduction in advice services in Wrexham at a time when there is huge pressure on individuals suffering from problems with PIP payments, Universal Credit and other forms of benefits.
“There has been a clear increase in the pressure on such services in the town – and this should not be met with funding cuts from the local council.
“In fact, I find it disgraceful that a reduction in funding has taken place in this environment. The cuts come from decisions made by the council’s executive board, who should take full responsibility for this situation.
“I call on the executive board to hold a vote of the full council to establish whether individual councillors support the reduction in funding to the Citizens Advice service.”
Cllr Marc Jones, the Plaid Cymru councillor who represents the Grosvenor ward where Citizens’ Advice is located, said: “Plaid Cymru councillors have called for funding to be reinstated for Citizens’ Advice.
“We’re talking about an extra £25,000 to maintain the service, which is needed more than ever due to people needing advice on housing, benefits and work issues.
“Cutting down the service will put added pressures on hard-pressed council staff and it’s a false economy when you consider the service brought an extra £200,000 into the borough last year.
“Wrexham Council faces financial challenges but this cut was petty and badly considered. The unexpected savings from not employing a permanent chief executive for the past nine months amount to about £100,000. Why not use that windfall to fund Citizens’ Advice?”
We have contacted Wrexham Council and are awaiting further comment.
How to contact Citizens’ Advice Wrexham:
Telephone advice line Service number is 0300 330 1178
Or the public can ring the National Advice Line: 03444 77 20 20
Access for specialist appointments can be made through the service’s advice line phone number or via a visit to the open door sessions.