Issue - meetings

Citizens' Advice Funding Mandate

Meeting: 11/10/2021 - Resources Executive Advisory Board (Item 28)

28 Citizens' Advice Funding pdf icon PDF 190 KB

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The Executive Advisory Board (EAB) received an introductory presentation from the Strategy and Communications Manager concerning the mandate in respect of the funding of Guildford and Ash Citizens Advice (CAs) by the Council.  The mandate addressed the following areas:


·             Introduction

·             Strategy

·             Strategic options to deliver a solution

·             Considerations

·             Resources

·             Risks, assumptions and issues

·             Dependencies, constraints and opportunities

·             Internal stakeholders

·             Appendix 1 – Citizens Advice Bureaux Funding


The presentation highlighted that the Council was the principal funder of Guildford and Ash CAs and that neither organisation would be viable without substantial funding from the authority.  In 2021/22 the core grant support totalled £300,000 (£225,000 to Guildford and £75,000 to Ash).  Separately, the Council had a funding agreement with Ash CA of £63,000 per annum to provide a money advice service for homelessness prevention, which was funded through government grant and outside the scope of this mandate.


CA was a network of independent charities that provided free confidential information and advice to assist people with money, legal, consumer and other problems.  Primary issues included debt management, welfare benefits, housing, immigration and asylum, employment, consumer complaints and landlord-tenant disputes.  Services provided by CAs could help address issues such as social exclusion and child poverty, mental health, homelessness and housing conditions, older people and those with long term illnesses and disabilities accessing welfare benefits and care advice.


Guildford and Ash CAs provided support to 4-5,000 clients each year.  A significant proportion of those were referrals from the Council, many of whom were also its tenants.  Although the Council had no statutory obligation to fund CAs, which provided significant benefits to residents and contributed to the Council’s corporate priorities, demand for Council services would increase without the advice and support they provided.


Whilst all Surrey district and borough councils provided financial support to CAs, Guildford’s funding was significantly higher than elsewhere.  Although direct comparisons were not straightforward, e.g. some councils may provide free accommodation in addition to financial support, total funding of £250,000 would be more in line with that provided by other local authorities.


With the Council’s support, the CAs (including Waverley CA) were discussing closer joint working and mergers to reduce costs and pursue new service delivery options by adopting a more outreach-based approach.  Such changes could deliver savings in terms of staffing and accommodation.  Without significant change, the ongoing viability of Guildford and Ash CAs in their current form was questioned.  Guildford CA currently occupied Council owned premises for which it paid an annual rent of £41,400 and a service charge of £10,941, which was covered by the grant.  The market rental of the property was estimated at £53,000 per annum.


The mandate set out the five options for future funding of the CAs in the context of the Council’s challenging financial position and corporate priorities.  The options consisted of (a) do nothing, (b) do something, (c) do more [1], (d) do more [2] or (e) do most.  The mandate was considered by the Executive / Management Team Liaison Group at its  ...  view the full minutes text for item 28