New group wants to fill gap left by closure of Huntingdonshire CAB

A GROUP is planning to fill a gap that will be left by the closure of Huntingdonshire’s Citizen Advice Bureau (CAB).

The Hunts Post reported on September 26 that the CAB was to close its branches in Huntingdon and St Neots – along with its outreach services in the rest of the district – before the end of the year.

Financial problems – the branch was unable to pay a six-figure contribution to the local government pension scheme – forced the board of trustees to put the service into administration on September 21.

However, its vital advice service to some of the district’s most vulnerable people could be replaced by Ouse Valley Advice.

The trustees of the group hope to win a contract with Huntingdonshire District Council, which is currently held by CAB and is up for renewal in April.

HDC has a pot of �273,000 to pay community groups and charities to provide services to vulnerable residents.

Diane Alder, who has six years’ experience as a CAB volunteer and was St Neots branch manager for seven years, is the chairman of the Ouse Valley Advice trustees.

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She told The Hunts Post: “When we heard about the bureaux were closing, we thought where are they going to get their advice from now? The CAB has done a really good job so we were really keen to have something new to replace it.

“It’s still a much-needed service.”

Other trustees include Tony Mountjoy, Gordon Round, John Wilson, Joy Round and St Neots Civic Awards winner Pru Gardiner. Between them they have more than 80 years of experience in the CAB – three trustees are former branch managers.

“We don’t want to run a cut price service because that doesn’t help anyone, but we will offer a value-for-money service that is cheaper to run than the current service,” Mrs Alder added. “We are also hopeful of increasing the level of service.”

To keep costs low the number of paid staff will be kept at a minimum and there will be strategic management salaries.

Mrs Alder added that the group was in discussions to provide an interim service between CAB’s closure and a new service in April. The trustees have until midday on October 31 to submit a bid. The winning bid will be announced on December 12.