£30,000 to fund free legal advice for East Riding residents
EAST Riding residents will still be able to get free legal advice despite Government cutbacks.
The Community Legal Advice Network will be scrapped when funding runs out from April next year.
But East Riding Council has committed £30,000 to fund free advice for a further 12 months after that and struck a deal with the Citizens' Advice Bureau (CAB) to provide the service.
It means people on limited means will still be able to access advice about, for example, dealing with debt.
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Councillor Jonathan Owen, deputy leader and portfolio holder for performance, transformation and strategic partnerships, said: "In response to these changes, the council has developed a 12-month interim service to be delivered by the current provider, Hull and East Riding Citizens' Advice Bureau (CAB), which will offer general legal and other advice services to residents of the East Riding.
"This can only be put in place because the cabinet has agreed to increase the council's funding contribution by £30,000.
"The money has been found from within existing budgets and it is another example that demonstrates the benefits of the council's strong financial management despite the national cutbacks in funding."
The news of a one-year deal raises the question of what happens after that.
Mr Owen said: "The one-year period will allow the council and our partners to redesign this service for the future and investigate where additional funding might be found to provide the specialist legal advice removed by national legislation."
Lesley Thornley, chief executive of Hull and East Riding CAB, said: "In the past three years we have seen a growing need for advice in the East Riding, particularly in debt and benefits and we are pleased this interim arrangement, taking us through to April 2014, helps us to provide advice to East Riding residents.
"The CAB is committed to helping people in communities resolve their problems.
"Changes in legislation have significantly reduced funding available and the bureau will seek additional funds to maintain and extend the services we can offer."
The changes were made necessary by the Government's introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.
It removes much of the scope for people to access free legal aid specialist advice and, therefore, significantly reduces the level of funding available to provide these services.
The CAB, which is mainly made up of volunteers, has offered to deliver an element of the service itself to strengthen it and ensure it remains as accessible to all residents of the East Riding, something that may not have been possible, even with the increased funding made available, with the loss of Legal Aid funding.
Alongside the interim service, the grant arrangement between the council and the Cherry Tree Community Association to deliver general advice in Beverley will also be continued.