CITIZENS Advice Solihull Borough’s town centre office is set to close after nearly half a century due to its council funding being axed.
Bosses say it is a devastating blow and that crucial services will be lost.
CASB supports nearly 6,000 vulnerable people a year – offering help and advice on matters including debt, benefits, housing and tax.
Its town centre service at The Core in Theatre Square is expected to be closed by March 31, after an eviction notice was issued at the council-owned premises.
But council chiefs say its own advice services will still be available at The Core, while Age UK will receive council funding to provide services which will no longer be provided by Citizens Advice.
The council claims the funding changes will streamline advice services and make them more efficient, cutting out duplication from different providers.
But CASB chiefs told the Observer residents will lose its expert advice on legal concerns, employment and immigration, among other things.
The changes will also mean a much reduced service at its Chelmsley Wood branch on Bosworth Drive, they say.
The council’s advice hubs are available in the The Core and Chelmsley Wood library.
CASB services have been open to the public for nearly 50 years, receiving funding from Solihull Council.
Citizens Advice is a UK-wide service giving free, confidential legal and practical advice on social and financial issues.
CASB says the decision to wipe out its council funding of more than £200,000 – two thirds of its total income – was taken in the run-up to Christmas when its services were heavily oversubscribed.
CASB says it will need funding from other sources to continue its work.
Chair of CASB Carole Hodson said: “We are disappointed Solihull Council chose not to select Citizens Advice to provide advice services in the borough from next April.
“The funding and support we’ve received from council over the past 45 years has helped us make a real difference to the lives of people in Solihull and we’re grateful for that.
“Last year our 109 volunteers and small team of paid workers advised almost 6,000 people with more than 18,000 problems.
“We will no longer be able to have a permanent presence in the town from March 31 next year.
“The trustees will now work closely with our partners, staff and volunteers to decide how we can best serve the people of Solihull.”
It also says it prevented nearly 200 households from becoming homeless last year.
The CASB appealed to the council but the decision was upheld.
Green councillor Mark Wilson (Smiths Wood) said: “It appears Solihull Council has reneged on the ‘social contract’; to support everyone from the wealthiest to the most vulnerable in the borough.
“I am acutely aware the majority of deprivation is in the north of the borough and all councillors in this part of Solihull will be especially upset and angry at this decision.”
CASB says there will also be ramifications for other partner charities such as Dial in Kingshurst which supports more than 1,700 disabled people in the borough.
A council spokesperson said: “Up until March 31 CASB are contracted to provide these services.
“From April 1 the contract for these services will be delivered by Age UK Solihull.
“The council undertook a procurement process as part of its continued investment of over £3million per annum into the borough’s community wellbeing services.
“These have been re-designed to meet the changing needs of Solihull residents over the coming years and will ensure they continue to receive the services they need and deserve.”