Leeds Citizens Advice future uncertain

The future of the Leeds Citizens Advice Bureau that has campaigned for consumers for more than 70 years is hanging in the balance.

Dianne Lyons, chief executive, has told the Yorkshire Evening Post that she does not know where funding is going to come from for the service after March 2011.

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At the heart of the problem is that the charity relies on receiving money from the Government, yet ahead of the general election both Labour and Conservatives agree that public spending cuts are inevitable.

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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.

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It employs 70 full time staff, but relies heavily on its 170 volunteers.

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Mrs Lyons said: "At the moment we are publically funded and if this is cut, like everything eventually is, the likelihood is that we are going to see a reduction in CAB service from 2011.

"We don't know yet as I don't know what our income is from April this year, let alone 2011."

Ironically, Mrs Lyons said that with rising unemployment rates and high levels of debt still being reported, the CAB is needed more than ever.

Leeds CAB has witnessed a 60 per cent surge in debt problems among its clients.

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

Recent efforts have seen opening hours extended at the Leeds CAB drop-in centre, pictured left, on New York Street, which now opens five mornings a week.

Plans to improve the CAB's over-the-phone service, which mostly provides information by way of a recorded message, are on hold.

It would cost 500,000 a year in wages to have a permanent team manning the phones.

The charity is planning to turn to Leeds businesses for support.

"Clearly we are seeing thousands of people as unemployment is continuing to go up – we are not out of the waters yet," said Mrs Lyons.

"A 'gestimated' 500 people a week are trying to get through to us on the phone or come to the branch when we are shut.

"That's thousands of people every year who can't access us now.

"Last year we increased out client needs by 20 per cent, this year by 10 per cent, but I have worked out that we'd need to continue to do that for another 10 years to completely meet that level of need."

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