THERE ARE now genuine concerns that Thurrock’s Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is set to close its doors.
Thousands of residents pass through the doors of the Argent Street offices each year, looking for advice of a variety of issues from housing to immigration.
It would be extraordinary that whilst some towns such as Harlow, with a population of 80,000 have two advice centre, Thurrock with a population of 160,000 would not have anywhere.
A bitter battle took place between the Thurrock CAB and the ruling Labour cabinet. But now that the Tories have taken over it may appear that the future looks even bleaker.
UKIP cllr Luke Spillman is extremely concerned: "I had the privilege to serve the people of Thurrock as an advice worker in Thurrock Citizens Advice between 2008 and 2015. The service provided first class free, independent and confidential advice services across a range of legal matters. Whether it be problems with debt, housing, consumer issues, benefits or employment the residents of Thurrock knew that if they needed help we would be there for them.
"Thurrock Citizens Advice has served resident for many years and is an essential service for thousands of local residents. At its high point it was one of the largest, most successful and most highly rated services of its kind in the entire country. This latest decision follows on from previous cuts in funding made by the Labour Administration two years ago.
"The previous cuts decimated our service and a range of other charitable advice services in Thurrock. It’s time Thurrock Council and all Councillors in the chamber took responsibility on this issue. If we remove this funding, then the service will close. Southend and Basildon Council can find money for free advice services so why can’t the people of Thurrock expect the same? If the service closes, then there will be no turning back when Thurrock Council inevitably realises that the cost to the community is much more than the meagre savings made by removing the grant. Advice Staff and volunteers with decades of combined experience will have been lost.
"UKIP Thurrock is determined to protect advice services in Thurrock. We ask that all Councillors, irrespective of party allegiance, join us in opposing this proposal from Thurrock Council."
A spokesperson for Thurrock Council said: "Thurrock Council has been proud to provide support to the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in their move to greater financial sustainability, over the past two years, since the decision was made to remove funding at full Council in February 2015.
This has included significant transitional funds, as well as ongoing support to explore external funding opportunities and options over the last 18 months and this will continue for the remainder of this financial year.
There is currently a Grant Funding Agreement with CAB which ends March 2017.
Although there are no formal arrangements to renew this grant, we have been in discussions with CAB for the last 18 months and have a further meeting arranged for next week.
We are mindful of the impact any possible closure may have, and therefore will continue to offer our support where we can.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Rob Gledhill said: "Only just today has the Chair of CAB contacted me personally to look at options which I really welcome. It is clear that engagement and working together is the order of the day, not closure."