Legal advice funding cut will have ‘direct impact on job losses’

The chief executive of Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has written to bureau mangers warning of job losses after a cut of more than £600,000 in legal aid board funding.

In a letter sent on Wednesday, Derek Mitchell indicated that the proposed cut would have a direct impact on the loss of at least 25 staff positions in 15 bureaus across the country.

Mr Mitchell wrote that after CAS was informed about a cut of £626,717 to funding by the Scottish Government at the start of January, he had arranged a meeting with the Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills Jamie Hepburn.

He also stated confidence that the figure would be “significantly higher”, having spoken to bureaus regarding their funding positions.

Having met the minister shortly before his letter to managers, Mr Mitchell said that he had been told the funding decision would not be reversed.

The CAS chief executive outlined that he was “extremely disappointed” by the decision.

The letter indicated that Mr Hepburn would be open to supporting an exploration of alternative funding options, according to CAS.

Scottish Liberal leader Willie Rennie raised concern that the cut would have a significant impact on people using the service.

“These Scottish Government cuts pose a direct threat to services which people desperately rely upon for sound, free and independent advice,” said Mr Rennie.

“Housing, employment law and benefits can be enormously complex and Citizens Advice services are vital to helping people navigate such processes. The loss of dozens of staff would be devastating.

“The Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills has shown casual indifference to the fate of the CABs. When it comes to protecting services which help people in difficult situations, he has proven himself to be no better than the Conservatives. The First Minister should step in and reverse these cuts.”