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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Lottery fund is ‘last real hope’ for Ulverston Citizens Advice Bureau

TIME is running out to save a vital advice service in Ulverston.

Citizens Advice South Lakeland (CASL) is under pressure to ease its financial woes or face closing its centres in Ulverston and Kendal.

Trustees say they do not know what will happen to the service after the end of the current financial year in March.

John Dersley, chairman of CASL, said no decision has been made to close either office.

But he said trustees are looking seriously at how to ensure Ulverston residents still have access to advice if CASL becomes insolvent.

He added: “This is happening all across the country. We are not the only citizens advice bureau in financial difficulty.”

South Lakeland District Council has previously confirmed it has no plans to cut its £82,000 funding to the region’s citizens advice services, CASL and Cumbria Rural Citizens Advice.

But in the absence of an unexpected windfall, Mr Dersley said, CASL may have to merge its services with other citizens advice charities in the area. By doing so, CASL would be eligible to apply for Big Lottery funding.

Roger Lindsay, a former volunteer at the Ulverston Citizens Advice Bureau, said it would be a disaster if it were to close.

He added: “I think the Big Lottery Fund is probably the last real hope of preserving a drop-in advice service in Ulverston.”

However, the grant is to help not-for-profit groups move to a more cost-effective business model and may not secure the future of all current citizens advice bureaux in the South Lakes.

Mr Dersley said: “We have got to work out something that meets the needs of all the partners involved.”

Trustees are satisfied the charity will be solvent at the end of this financial year.

However, they will be obliged to call in an insolvency practitioner if they cannot make the same assurances of next year.

Mr Dersely said raising money that could end up being used to finance debts posed legal and ethical issues.

He added: “That, in my view, is deception and I am not going to do it.”

Mr Dersley also said he was in talks with SLDC to use council buildings to provide services on an ad-hoc basis if the base in Theatre Street closed.

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