The Council has for many years provided funding to support the provision of advice and information via the Citizens Advice Bureaux. The funding arrangement that we have in place is due to terminate and consideration needs to be given as to the best way to provide such support to residents of North Norfolk in the future. The position is summarised as follows.
· The advice and Information contract with Norfolk Citizens Advice and joint funding agreement with Norfolk County Council is due to end on 31st March 2020 and we have been asked to consider an extension to it for a further 12 months in order to bring it into line with NCC’s arrangements.
· The total annual grant for the service amounts to £109,000, of which North Norfolk District Council provides £66,323 and Norfolk County Council provides £42,677 per annum.
· Any decision to provide continued grant funding (for the period 1 April 2020 – 31st March 2021) for the Advice and Information service provided by Norfolk Citizens Advice needs to be informed by an evaluation of the effectiveness of the service and in particular the way it is provided and the locations that are used in North Norfolk. Such a decision will need also to consider potential alternative means of provision both in the immediate term and in the future.
Option 1: To extend the current funding agreement with Norfolk County Council and to contract with Norfolk Citizens Advice for another year until 31 March 2021. The original contract which ended on 31st December 2018 was already extended by fifteen months, until 31st March 2020, at the request of Norfolk County Council. A further extension of the contract would require suspension of the Council’s Standing Orders in accordance with exemption Rule 9 (f). There are elements of the existing contract that, for a variety of reasons, are not being delivered. The actual cost of delivering the service has also not been reviewed. Therefore, it is not appropriate to merely extend the contract and this option is not recommended.
Option 2: Not to award any funding towards the provision of Information and Advice services in North Norfolk. Statistical data submitted by Norfolk Citizens Advice as part of the existing contract as well as data from services such as Social Prescribing, demonstrates a need, particularly for elderly and vulnerable residents, to provide access to a range of support services, including advice and information. Whilst Norfolk County council will continue to fund Advice and Information services, ceasing any funding by the Council for Advice and Information services would have a negative and detrimental impact on residents. This option is not recommended.
Option 3: Not to award a grant to Norfolk Citizens Advice when the current arrangements end on 31 March 2020. Whilst there is a compelling case to review and revise the grant award from the Council, the total withdrawal of funding support from the Council to Norfolk Citizens Advice would have an impact on their ability to provide appropriate Advice and Information services across North Norfolk. This option is not recommended.
Option 4: Not to extend the current contract with Norfolk Citizens Advice and joint funding agreement with Norfolk County Council until 31st March 2021 but
instead to award a conditional grant, not exceeding the current level (£66,323), to Norfolk Citizens Advice towards the provision of Advice and Information services in North Norfolk, which would include variations of the service provision arrangements. This option is recommended as:
· it will provide the opportunity to review/tailor the service, taking into account the reasons why elements of the existing contract are not being delivered and their appropriateness/ efficacy;
· the combined funding from Norfolk County Council and this Council for the existing Advice and Information service in North Norfolk does not accurately reflect the cost of the service that is currently being delivered;
· Since the original contract was agreed, other services such as Social Prescribing have been established in North Norfolk, which offer advice and information as part of a wider support service. The amount and conditions of the grant awarded to Norfolk Citizens Advice should reflect other advice and information services being delivered.
In 2016, the agreement with Norfolk County Council to jointly fund and procure a three-year Advice and Information service resulted in the provision of an enhanced advice and information service across the district.
Norfolk County Council has decided to extend their contract for advice and information services for a further year until 31st March 2021. This will include funding towards services being delivered by Norfolk Citizens Advice across Norfolk.
There is a need to review the funding as there are services within the existing contract that are not being delivered in North Norfolk; but also others that we see as being essential to maintain. The actual cost of services being delivered compared to the allocated funding also needs to be reviewed.
Ending the joint contract with Norfolk County Council will enable the Council to award a conditional and appropriate grant to Norfolk Citizens Advice for the delivery of advice and information service in dedicated offices and agreed outreach locations for the period 1 April 2020 – 31st March 2021.
The amount of the grant should not exceed the current allocated annual funding of £66,323.
That Cabinet resolves:
· To review the advice and information service being delivered by Norfolk Citizens Advice.
· Having regard to the review, to delegate authority to the S151 Officer, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Culture & Wellbeing, to award a conditional grant (of no more than the current sum of £66,323) to Norfolk Citizens Advice towards the continuation of advice and information services in North Norfolk at dedicated offices and agreed outreach locations for the period 1 April 2020 – 31st March 2021.
· Over the coming year, to review the various operational options for meeting the advice and information needs of the District in future years (after the proposed new contract period).
To enable the continuation of established advice and information services by Norfolk Citizens Advice in North Norfolk for the period 1st April 2020 – 31st March 2021.
To ensure the funding awarded by the Council to Norfolk Citizens Advice enables residents across North Norfolk to benefit from the provision of advice and information services in North Norfolk including at designated and outreach locations as appropriate.
To ensure that sufficient preparations are made to secure appropriate provision to meet the needs of users of the service in the future.
Cllr Virginia Gay
All wards in North Norfolk