THE HEREFORD TIMES has recently been filled with reports about valuable services and projects that help the vulnerable: Citizens Advice Bureau, the Marches Access Point, and the Barnabas Deaf and Community Support Service. All reports had one common and dispiriting theme – because of funding cuts, the organisations are struggling to stay open or are to close.
Herefordshire Council itself has cut hundreds of jobs since 2010, reduced library and customer service opening hours and has had to trim its budget again this year to cope with another ‘tough’ central government settlement. Bus services and tourism support which are vital for our rural economy are losing financial support.
The prospect of Hereford CAB closing ought to be a wake-up call to local and Westminster politicians that cuts have gone too far. Instead the response has been a defensive letter from Councillor Johnson praising the council’s financial management and claiming that it “sticks to its priorities of protecting the vulnerable” (28 May 2015). The Herefordshire Green Party calls upon HCC to honour that pledge by committing to future funding for the CAB.
Mr Johnson also claims his earlier comments after the election, in “Council says Enough is Enough with Austerity” of 21 May, have been misinterpreted and weren’t a call for Jesse Norman and Bill Wiggin to moderate austerity. We think the CAB problems mean he should re-double his efforts rather then retracting his request for help.
Current policies are evidently damaging the vulnerable in society. I hope that our newly elected MPs will heed Tony Johnson’s original plea and not just direct a bit more money to Herefordshire but will try to get their government to reverse the austerity programme and truly ‘protect’ our services.
In the general election campaign, all the major parties claimed they would be best at managing the economy. In reality voters were being asked to choose one of three variants of austerity. My message was different – greater investment in public services, not more cuts and service restrictions. The Green Party is committed to building a society which supports everyone’s needs and to reversing the growing inequality of wealth. And that includes support for vital services like the CAB.
More about the CAB:
- HCC grant to CAB last year was £117,000. In 2013/14 CAB helped over 5,000 individuals – 62% with a household income of less that £1,000 per month. The most common issues were around benefits (36%) and debt (29%). The main purpose of providing advice is to make a positive difference to people’s lives. But where outcomes can be quantified in monetary terms the CAB managed to deliver £4.4m to clients (enabling them to claim benefits they are entitled to & managing debts) – the vast majority of this would have been spent in the local economy.
- Services have been withdrawn from Ross-on-Wye, Ledbury, Bromyard & Leominster. Without long term funding the service in Hereford will also have to close.
- CAB helps Herefordshire’s most vulnerable people, many of whom will not have access to online services or even have money to make a phone call.