Future of Wellington Citizens Advice Bureau no longer in jeopardy

Wellington City Council has done a U-turn on its recommendation to cut guaranteed funding to support service Citizens Advice Bureau and evict them from three offices to make way for a mobile service, in a unanimous vote this morning.

The Council has decided to give Citizens Advice Bureau $210, 787 in funding for one year, with funding for the second and third year to be decided as part of a review. That's the same amount it has received annually for the last three years.

Two weeks ago, the Grants subcommittee recommended the information and advice service receive a $103,500 one-off grant with no guaranteed funding after that, as well as asking CAB to become a mobile service. It was recommended that CAB be evicted from three council spaces including the most popular CAB Wellington central library office.

The organisation's trained volunteers give people advice and information in a range of areas such as tenancy, employment, immigration and budgeting. It also offer Justice of the Peace services.

Councillor Brian Dawson previously said the council was concerned the service wasn't reaching people in Wellington's most vulnerable suburbs, and questioned whether other organisations were already providing the same services as CAB.

Citizens Advice Bureau's national chief executive Kerry Dalton had argued the six month time period to find a sustainable future for the organisation was not enough time and there hadn't been clear communication with the council over its plans. Ms Dalton had said need for the service has only increased and there was no evidence it was not working effectively.

A petition with thousands of signatures voting against the proposal was handed over via email at a full council meeting today.

Wellington Citizens Advice Bureau area manager Lucy Trevelyan said the decision voted on today was not a win for the organisation, but would allow it to keep helping those in the community and work on a plan to continue getting funding through making changes to the organisation.

"When the future of your organisation relies on grants in order to provide services to the community, it's important to have as much certainty as possible," she said in a statement.

"The new plan will give us the space to consider how CAB can continue to best deliver for the needs of Wellingtonians going forward."

Of the outcome, Councillor Brian Dawson said a review of the service by council and CAB was in everyone's best interests.

"We will need to identify any gaps in existing services and explore ways to fill these gaps," he said in a statement.

"We want to try and make sure youth, refugees, social housing tenants and those in areas of need such as Strathmore and Linden will be covered by services."

Councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman questioned whether the organisation had approached the Government for increased funding.

Chief executive Kerry Dalton said central government provides funding for its national organisation, the majority of which is for its internet service and training.

Dr Ramona Tiatia from the University of Otago Wellington's Public Health Department also presented a petition to council today and said she was glad the fire's putting the CAB under attack "are starting to recede".

Ms Tiatia said the service was an important link for Pasifika and new migrants, who otherwise would have to use mainstream services which often aren't useful.

She said 14,000 Pasifika people use the service annually, of which 80 per cent were walk-in enquiries.

The review of the Wellington Citizens Advice Bureau service will be presented to Council early next year.

Citizens Advice Bureau has faced funding cuts to a number of offices around the country in recent years. 

The council is considering changes for the community service.
Citizens Advice Bureau Source: 1 NEWS