Volunteers at Citizens Advice Woking have written to Jonathan Lord and Michael Gove, MPs for Woking and Surrey Heath respectively, and the government-appointed commissioners at Woking Borough Council in the next step of their campaign to restore the charity’s funding. 

“We’re hoping to keep ourselves at the front of people’s minds until the council meeting on March 4,” said one volunteer. “This letter was also copied to councillors, all of whom that have responded have done so favourably.”  

“As you may be aware,” the letter argues, “we have been expressing doubts that this is a financially competent decision [reducing operational funding] since we believe that having the council perform its statutory duties towards the vulnerable entirely in-house will be significantly more expensive than properly funding Citizens Advice Woking.

“We do not know if the council agrees because we have not seen the council’s financial assessment of the mitigation proposals put forward in the Equality Impact Assessment or whether or not funding us will in fact result in a saving to the council.

“In all of our conversations with councillors, we are told they appreciate us, we are invaluable, but their hands are tied. They tell us that they have to make these cuts to balance their budget and they (i) need to satisfy commissioners who would not allow any funding, and (ii) are following rules laid down by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

“Do the rules the council are following prevent them from taking into account additional costs they will face? Since the budget cannot be truly balanced given the enormous debt burden, how was the maximum expenditure calculated and how can it be adjusted to allow the vulnerable residents of Woking to be protected? Can there be some leeway to provide some relief to maintain some services, eg a day’s interest relief to prevent the hardship that vulnerable Woking residents will face?

“We sincerely hope the system is not so badly broken that, in following rules, an unwise financial decision must be made. Similarly misguided decisions have led to the unfortunate position Woking faces; compounding it would not be in anyone’s interest.”