Citizens Advice Scotland has warned that five bureaux in Glasgow will close at the end of the month with the loss of 42 jobs unless emergency funding is found.
The umbrella body for CABs in Scotland blamed the situation on Glasgow City Council’s decision to switch the provision of advice services in the city from grants to contracts.
CABs have served Glasgow since 1939. But five of the eight bureaux in the city – in Easterhouse, Pollok, Castlemilk, Parkhead and Bridgeton – face closure after being beaten in the bidding for three-year contracts by a consortium of other advice groups, called the Glasgow Advice Agency.
If the closures go ahead, the CAB’s presence in Glasgow will be restricted to bureaux in Glasgow Central, Drumchapel and Maryhill.
A spokesman for Citizens Advice Scotland said the contracting process "effectively set charities and advice groups against each other" and that the bureaucracy involved took enormous amounts of time.
Susan McPhee, acting chief executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, said in a statement: "This is a really shocking situation, and we are deeply disappointed that the people of Glasgow will lose so much expert advice just when they need it most.
"The CAB is one of the most popular institutions in the city."
A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said there was no reason for the closures to go ahead because the five threatened bureaux would continue to be paid by the Glasgow Advice Agency to provide services on a subcontractor basis.
"The CABs were made a firm offer at the weekend, which will secure their funding for the next year and ensure that no bureaux have to close," he said in a statement.
"It is exceptionally disappointing that Citizens Advice Scotland has chosen to take this decision when it knows perfectly well there will be no need to close."
The Citizens Advice Scotland spokesman said in response to this: "These five CABs have already been stretched way beyond their normal capacity over the past year, working on what was in fact a reduced budget.
"They had to use their reserves in order to do so; they are now being asked to take on more work for a standstill budget, which represents a real-terms cut. Even a voluntary, cost-effective service like the CAB cannot do more for less."
Patrick Harvie, Scottish Green Party MSP for Glasgow, described the Labour-run council’s tendering process as an "absolute shambles".
"Forcing voluntary groups to compete to provide a vital, free public service was a ludicrous idea to begin with," he said. "Officials seem to be washing their hands of it, which is appalling behaviour.
"I have raised the matter in parliament and will be calling on the Scottish government to find a way to help the staff and protect their clients."