Huntingdon: Advice Bureau Set To Shut

Funding concerns for the Huntingdonshire Citizen's Advice Bureau has forced its' trustees to wind-up the service.

A closure date hasn't yet been set - but Huntingdonshire District Council's Executive Leader, Councillor Jason Ablewhite told Heart: "I am saddened to hear that the Trustees of Huntingdonshire CAB have announced today that they are set to close, as the service is no longer financially viable."

Cllr Ablewhite added: "Huntingdonshire District Council places great value on the role of the Citizens Advice Bureau and has been working extensively with the bureau to look at all the possible options to keep this service operating in its current form, before this difficult decision had to be taken by the Board.

I recognise that this service is very important to our residents, especially now as many people face financial difficulties during the economic downturn."

Cllr Ablewhite concluded: "We will be actively seeking other ways to help provide this essential service in Huntingdonshire. I would like to reassure residents that we are absolutely committed to making sure that an independent advice service will be available in our district both in the long and short term."

Michael Mealing, Chair of Huntingdonshire Citizens Advice Bureau, told Heart: "It is with great regret that I have to announce that Huntingdonshire CAB is to close. Funding issues including pension liabilities have made it unsustainable, and the Trustee Board has agreed to appoint an insolvency practitioner to oversee the managed wind-down of the bureau. 

We cannot yet confirm a closure date, but we expect this to be within the next three months. We will make a further announcement as soon as we have a definite date. I would like to stress that services to clients will continue as normal for the foreseeable future. 

Trustees of the bureau and national Citizens Advice are working very closely with Huntingdonshire District Council, other funders, and neighbouring bureaux to try and ensure people living in Huntingdonshire continue to have access to advice services." 

Mr Mealing added: "Volunteers and paid staff at the bureau have been informed of the situation and we are doing everything we can to ensure staff and volunteers have the opportunity to be part of any replacement service that may be set up. 

The decision to close was taken at a meeting of the Trustee Board on September 21 and follows months of uncertainty due to funding issues, including pension liabilities arising from a 1996 decision to enrol employees of the Bureau in the Local Government Pension Scheme. 

This scheme in common with many other such schemes is now seriously under funded. The Bureau has always worked very closely with Huntingdonshire District Council, which has been a very generous supporter, but despite extensive discussions it has unfortunately not been possible to find a solution to the pension problem." 

Concluding, Mr Mealing said: "The Trustees would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff and volunteers at the bureau for their tremendous hard work, dedication and commitment in difficult circumstances. We would also like to thank Huntingdonshire District Council and other funders for their continuing support."