The trustees of Wrexham’s Citizens Advice service have issued a statement “presenting our side of the issues surrounding our organisation” – with some of the comments appearing at odds with what is due to go before councillors.
Following our article on Thursday that previews the decision before Wrexham Council’s Executive Board tomorrow, we have been given a response from the Trustees of Citizens Advice Wrexham.
The letter reads: “In 2015 we were awarded a contract for 2 years with reduced funds for our open door and telephone generalist advice service. We were advised at that time, and at several meetings we had with the Local Authority (LA) throughout 2016 and 2017, that commissioning would be taking place and would be advertised on Sell2Wales.
“It was only in May 2017 that it was disclosed that this would not be happening and there would be no commissioning for advice services.”
“Historically/since 1962, Citizens Advice Wrexham always had a small grant from Wrexham County Borough Council since 1962 to support the delivery of our open door services run by volunteers to help the Community of Wrexham.
“We have been able to attract other funding to deliver specialist projects such as debt advice and outreach services. The projects still remain funded, currently, but at risk given the position with regard to our open door funding.”
“We have taken steps to find alternative funding for our generalist service, what the LA call core costs, but without success at this time, as many other potential funders will fund projects involving specialised areas of advice, such as debt and welfare benefits, or indeed advice targeted to specific groups within the community.; but not our generalist advice open door services. ”
The report to councillors, as we noted last week, states: “The financial detail provided by CAB Wrexham also appeared to indicate that no action had been taken to address cost reductions in the last two years to address the phasing out of funding.”
The letter from Trustees explains the situation since 2015 regarding budgetary changes: “We have used reserves and not replaced people who are greatly needed to run the service to full capacity. We have made massive cutbacks over the last two years, details of which have been presented to the LA.”
These are listed as ‘losing 3 valuable staff needed to run the service’, ‘utility savings’, ‘telephone equipment saving’, non renewal of a IT maintenance contract and ‘renegotiating contracts with providers to reduce costs’.
The report to Councillors also notes a ‘substantial reserve value’ and therefore questions why a reduction of £23,600 funding from 2017/18 would result in closure.
This point is taken up by Trustees: “We have maintained a prudent level of reserves to guard against the possibility of insolvency. Charity Law states that not for profit organisations and charities must have an appropriate level of reserves (in our case, up to approximately 3 months) to maintain stability and wind up if necessary.”
The Trustees also give detail to the work carried out, putting a figure of well over £200k on the value to Wrexham Council: “Last year alone we dealt with in excess of 8500 clients with over 21,000 enquiries recorded. Our work we did as a voluntary organisation saved the LA £237,804 and all this information along with much more has been presented for the Council’s consideration.”
The Trustees round up the letter: “We recognise that core funding has ceased, we have asked them for a one off award of transition funding to assist us to remain open, and give us further opportunity to continue to seek funding from elsewhere.
“We have also asked for discussions to be held subsequently for the following years as we believe that advice services are greatly needed by the community in Wrexham.
“Currently a volunteer with major health issues is trying to raise money to support our service, see www.justgiving.co.uk/gwyn-evans4, and feel free to donate.
“It is stated we will close July 2018 any final decisions will be discussed at a Trustee Board meeting on the 13th June, 2018. We want to stay open and all Trustees, Staff and Volunteers are working extremely hard to get every penny they can into our service to enable perhaps a reduced service.”
The report plus the four options outlined here will be discussed and voted on by executive board members tomorrow 12th June at 10am at the Guildhall.
The meeting will be webcast on the Wrexham Council website and unlike the 2015 decision, it appears it will be held in Part 1 meaning press and public can attend and view proceedings.