North Lanarkshire Council has approved a far-reaching review of advice services

The council's Policy and Resources Committee considered a report today (Thursday) which aimed to establish a fit-for-purpose provision of information and advice across North Lanarkshire.

The review was carried out with input from council services and independent providers of advice, with a mixed economy of internal services and third sector bodies chosen as the best way forward.

All of the council's internal advice services will merge as part of the changes, with a smaller management structure. The review also focuses on making best use of resources and reducing duplication. As a result, funding provided by the council to Citizens' Advice Bureaux will reduce by an average of 22%. This reduction only applies to council funding: CABs have substantial other funding from a range of sources.

The council also agreed to a procurement exercise, with full involvement of the CABs and other voluntary organisations, to commission a third sector partner for advice services.

Councillor Jim Logue, leader of North Lanarkshire Council, said: "This review is long overdue. It simplifies internal structures to provide a better focus for advice services. It also applies consistency to Citizens' Advice Bureau funding. CABs provide important services, but it is simply indefensible to make the kind of significant cuts to council services we have been forced to make and not also review the funding the council provides to others.

"CABs have large budgets from other sources, with substantial levels of staffing and significant reserves. In some cases, the reduction of the council grant amounts to around 7% of the CABs overall budget. Other independent providers of advice have already had a reduction in funding from the council of an average 33%, so the CABs are being protected in this process. These are the facts, despite the unreliable figures produced during the unwarranted protests against the council over this review.

"The most important thing here is the services received by the people of North Lanarkshire. We are faced with extremely difficult decisions, but simplifying these services and removing duplication will ensure better access to advice for people. I look forward to further input from CABs and other providers as we move towards the commissioning model set out in the review." 

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