Story & photo: Douglas Johnson
Former Home Secretary David Blunkett was the guest speaker at Pitsmoor Citizens Advice Bureau’s AGM on 10th December 2010.
He first reflected on reports by the Bureau’s chair, Kate Heath, and by the manager, Chris Walker, who told the gathering at Sorby House of the fantastic work put in by paid staff and volunteers at the CAB. Presenting the annual report, Chris showed how the bureau had helped 3,900 people last financial year and had already helped over 4,000 so far this year – one effect of the cuts already.
The annual report lists 31 paid staff and 90 volunteers. Volunteers deliver a lot of the advice, on a wide range of topics, but the most common issues are problems with welfare benefits and tax credits, debts, housing, immigration and employment. The “volunteer of the year” award was shared by Kate Thomas, Margaret Everitt and Liz Giles.
Chris Walker warned of threats to funding of the service – not just from cuts in council grants but also from the risk of private businesses competing for public funds to deliver an alternative service. The Government is consulting on abolishing the legal aid funding that the Bureau receives. Chris said:
“The whole city and many of the poorest people will be the worse for the changes.”
David Blunkett then spoke of the “devastating” cuts to local authorities about to be announced by the Government and the effect it would have on communities. He said he hoped to see control of the City Council change to Labour in May’s local elections but even so, he said the effect could only be a “marginal” difference.
Instead, he called for “greater mutuality and solidarity” as there was a hundred years ago. He also talked about the role of big business and told how he had already had two meetings with Tesco. He suggested they could help, with examples such as using accommodation in Sorby House for training and providing staff to work as volunteers.
Like every other advice service and voluntary sector organisation in the area, Pitsmoor CAB faces a challenging year ahead when its services will be needed more than ever.
If you would like to volunteer for Pitsmoor CAB contact 273 8838.