WEST Dunbartonshire Citizens Advice Bureau (WDCAB) has hit out at the council for proposing to slash its funding during ‘the worst cost-of-living crisis it has ever seen’.

The charity, based on High Street in Dumbarton, receives more than £261k per year from West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC) to help provide an “essential service” to the region including advising on debt, benefits, and consumer rights.

Ahead of WDC’s budget-setting meeting on March 6 - where councillors will work to plug an £8.3 million budget black hole - it was announced that WDCAB’s council-provided funding could be cut by 25 to 100 per cent.

Staff and trustees at the organisation have told of their disappointment at this news.

Joe McCormack, manager at WDCAB, said: “We understand WDC’s financial position and recognise that they have some really tough decisions to make but this proposal from officers makes no sense.

“This is the worst cost of living crisis we have ever experienced, doubly damaging because it comes so soon after lockdown and all that the pandemic did to damage the resilience of vulnerable people within our communities.

“Food inflation and energy costs remain high (with no UK Government support this year), mortgage interest rates are higher than they have been in decades and benefit claimants are being forced onto Universal Credit.

“West Dunbartonshire people need access to local independent advice – WDCAB provides that.”

Documents published by WDC state that WDCAB’s funding from the Dumbarton Common Good Fund (£40k per year) will not be affected by this savings option.

However, it goes on to note that despite the charity not being totally reliant on council funding, any change in the level of grant funding is “likely to lead to a reduction in services”.

Joe explained that in the past 12 months, WDCAB helped over 5000 people and advised on more than 36,000 issues.

He added: “Last year we helped over 5000 people. Because people’s lives can be so complicated, that help entailed just under 12,000 separate contacts and during those conversations we advised on 36,405 issues.

“Before making their decisions we would ask councillors to consider where would the 5138 people we helped last year go for assistance if the CAB service is no longer available.

“WDCAB is not a statutory service – but it is an essential service for many local people.”

A WDC spokesperson said: “This proposal will be considered by elected members during a budget meeting taking place on March 6.

"No decision can or will made in advance of this date."