AN advice centre which offers a lifeline to people in crisis is worried it could have to close its branch in Colchester due to funding cuts.

Citizens Advice Colchester fears cuts in Colchester Council Voluntary Welfare Grant funding could spell the end to its vital service.

The council announced its grant to the advice bureau next year will be £25,000 - half of the amount it provided this financial year.

In 2018, the service received £50,000 and the year before this they received £101,791.

Bill Hayton, speaking for the trustees at Citizens Advice Colchester, said: “Last year Citizens Advice Colchester helped more than 6,800 people with 14,100 separate issues – mostly related to debt and housing problems.

“We helped families avoid eviction, bankruptcy and hundreds of other problems with finance and bureaucracy. The queue outside the advice bureau every week day morning is evidence of the continuing need for our services. If the bureau closes, where will these people go?”

The service is split into a number of separate projects some of which are independently grant-funded. The Colchester Council grant helps fund the core advice to residents, both face-to-face and via telephone. Costs of this service for the year are £100,380.

Bill added: “Our grant from the council allows us to employ a few paid staff to train and manage our 45 volunteer advisers.

“If we can’t employ the staff, we can’t supervise the volunteers and the bureau will have to close.”

Colchester Council had about £200,000 to give away.

Tina Bourne, councillor responsible for housing and communities, said the funding had been spread across more organisations this year.

She said: “This grant has been going for decades. A couple of years ago we changed the funding criteria as small organisations felt they never had a chance.

“Applicants had to demonstrate they would either increase volunteering, help people build skills, prevent loneliness or help vulnerable people.

“This year we had 60 applications and we can either spread the jam thinly or follow the criteria.

“We funded ten organisations this year, three more than last year.”