Review of funding for Norfolk’s Citizens Advice Bureaux amid concerns over service

Norfolk County Council has ordered a review into how it funds the county's Citizens Advice Bureaux.

Norfolk County Council has ordered a review into how it funds the county's Citizens Advice Bureaux. - Credit: PA

County councillors have decided to hold back some of the money it gives to Norfolk's Citizens Advice Bureaux, amid concerns about some elements of the service.

In this financial year, Norfolk County Council had awarded grants of just under £364,000 to the three Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) networks in the county - about £287,000 to Norfolk CAB, some £37,900 to Diss, Thetford and District CAB and a further £38,500 to Dereham, Watton and Holt CAB.

But, rather than award another full year's grant, county councillors this week agreed to extend funding for six months and to carry out a review of all County Hall funded information, advice and advocacy services, including the CAB.

The review, which county council bosses said would allow them to figure out if services were being duplicated and if the needs of people were being best met, comes as North Norfolk District Council also looked to alternative sources of help for its residents amid concerns about the North Walsham branch.

The former Citizens Advice North Norfolk was controversially merged with Norfolk CAB in November 2012, which led to a number of volunteers leaving the charity.

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Those concerns were reiterated at this week's meeting of Norfolk County Council's adult social services committee, where the review of the County Hall-funded services was agreed.

Eric Seward, Liberal Democrat county councillor for North Walsham East and a North Norfolk district councillor, said the CAB had, historically, provided an exceptional service, but that there had been concerns about the service based at North Walsham.

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Alison Thomas, Conservative councillor for Long Stratton, said: 'I'd like to thank everyone who works within the CAB. It is hugely valued by my residents.

'It is appropriate that we should support a strategic review to ensure the funding going in is being maximised to support the service and make it sustainable going forward.'

Steve Cheshire, chief executive of Norfolk CAB, had previously said he welcomed the district council investigation and had encouraged Norfolk County Council to conduct a similar review.

He said: 'They should be clear about where their priorities lie and that they are getting value for money. As far as our quality of advice goes, it's better than before the merger. People are effectively trained to make sure advice is accurate and appropriate to the individual.'

• What do you think? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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