FINANCE NEWS: Advice UK warns of imminent funding crisis

Mathew Little

Advice UK, the umbrella body for voluntary sector independent advice centres, is to request a meeting with the new Department of Constitutional Affairs to warn that a looming funding crisis may begin to bite earlier than expected.

Grants to centres to run the Government's Community Legal Service have been frozen below inflation level, while the centres face a hike in pay costs of around 8 per cent because of the local government pay settlement (Third Sector, 23 April).

Advice UK had been refused a meeting with Baroness Scotland, a Minister in the former Lord Chancellor's department, but will now ask to meet David Lammy, Minister in the Department of Constitutional Affairs, who has inherited Scotland's responsibilities.

Keith Bennett, chairman of Advice UK and director of Cambridge Independent Advice Centre, said that the effect of the cuts would have "an exponential and cumulative effect".

He said that he was being forced to subsidise the Community Legal Service contracts using grants from charitable trusts and local authorities.

"It's an environment that we are quite used to, but there will come a crunch point. It's difficult to predict when that will be," he said.

The Community Legal Service replaced the old Legal Aid in 2000, which was confined to private solicitors. The new service includes contracts with around 400 voluntary sector advice centres, including Citizens Advice Bureaux and independent advice centres.

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