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Citizens Advice Bureau faces 'greatest test' since war

By Essex Chronicle  |  Posted: June 11, 2012

  • CUTTING THE RIBBON: Mayor of Chelmsford Chris Kingsley, centre, with, from left, Ashley John, MP John Wittingdale, MP Simon Burns, John Scott and Russ Mynott open the new Citizens Advice Bureau

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CHELMSFORD Citizens Advice Bureau has moved into new £300,000 offices as it prepares to battle its "biggest challenge since the Second World War".

The Government plans to scrap council tax benefits and universal credit next April, and Russell Mynott, chief executive of Chelmsford CAB, says thousands will lose their homes.

His team of 100 volunteers saves homes for debt-ridden families, but he needs at least 100 more to keep the battle going.

"We have to be ready for our greatest challenge since the Second World War," said Mr Mynott, whose charity moved from offices in Broomfield Road to a building four times larger next to the council offices in Coval Lane.

"There are not enough homes now for those on the waiting lists. The potential when the benefits are changed, if they are changed, in April next year, will be overwhelming across the country. Chelmsford will not escape.

"People will lose their homes, because they cannot pay for them. The world we knew is gone, I believe for a very long time. Harsh reality faces everyone. Prepare now."

The new CAB centre officially opened at a former clinic attached to the Civic Centre on Friday. It is part of a council modernisation plan which saw a new £700,000 customer services department open in the Civic Centre last year.

Among the 40 people at the launch were MPs Simon Burns and John Whittingdale.

Mr Burns said: "This is a very important service that has my total support and I am full of admiration for Chelmsford Council in finding the money for CAB headquarters despite the financial restraint it is under. It shows great foresight by the council."

Mr Whittingdale said: "In these difficult times I cannot overstress the importance of CAB."

During the recession the bureau has continued to work on hundreds of housing, cash, legal and personal solutions for desperate residents.

But Mr Mynott says he needs 100 more people willing to listen, man the telephones and answer queries, as well as business and legal executives who can devote time to help residents in trouble.

He said: "People don't tend to realise we are a charity relying on the goodwill of volunteers bringing their time and expertise to help people on hard times."

More information is at www. chelmsfordcab.org

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  • anonymous1113  |  June 13 2012, 4:32PM

    Not sure where the number of 100 volunteers at the CAB comes from? They have been losing more volunteers than they have been recruiting for a few years and they never had anywhere near 100 to start with. Probably more like 50 volunteers in total. Also the website you are directed to is so out of date it's unreal. It gives the address of the old bureau, the photos are of the old bureau, the most recent annual report on there is the 2005-2006 one, the public transport information is incorrect and on the community links page it lists an organisation that doesn't even exist anymore. I would have thought that they would have got their website up to date BEFORE they direct potential volunteers to it. The service is a vital one BUT it deserves better informed and more honest management than it currently has.