Leeds Citizens Advice Bureaux: Advice team of 11 axed

Funding has been withdrawn from Leeds Citizens Advice Bureaux to pay debt advice specialists.

From March the service will lose all of its 11 case workers, who currently handle 2,500 debt-related inquiries each year.

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Nationally 500 debt advisors will go, confirmed Mark Hoban MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in an answer to a written question submitted to the House of Commons.

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In Leeds there will be no staff available to help consumers struggling with redundancy, bankruptcy or mortgage, credit card and household bills.

But latest figures show that the average debt held by people living in Leeds is 15,000, confirmed Dianne Lyons, Chief Executive of Leeds CAB.

She said: "Last year we saw a big increase with people needing help with mortgage arrears. Cuts to benefits and tax credits are going to be making big impacts this year.

"We are really trying very hard to (reach more people], but what is the point if we don't have the case workers to back it up?

"What's the point planning if you can't follow up with the help they really need?

"God know what's going to happen. In the words of the Chancellor - there is no Plan B."

Leeds CAB deals with around 55,000 face-to-face enquiries each year - a third of which are debt related.

Yet the service turns away around 500 people a week - people who are unable to get through on the phone or find the service shut.

Last year opening hours were extended at the Leeds CAB drop-in centre on New York Street, which now opens four days a week.

Leeds CAB, a vital service that helps an increasing number of low income residents from across the city deal with a wide range of issues, costs 1.75m a year to run.

Stephen Blake of the CMA  Photo: Vikki Ellis

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