UPDATED: The Isle of Wight Law Centre has this week sent a letter to all members of the Isle of Wight Council setting out its case as to why a proposed funding cut will cost the Council far more than it might save.
The Law Centre has been informed that the Council intends to cut the Centre’s core funding of £70,000 in 2019. This will mean that the Law Centre has to close on 30th June 2019, leading to the loss of 12 jobs.
However, the letter sent to Councillors sets out the fact that if the Law Centre ceases to operate the work it does preventing homelessness will cost the Council at least £1.5million. In 2017 the Law Centre dealt with over 60 Eviction Warrants and had a 98% success rate. Each warrant that is executed renders the individual or family concerned homeless and they become the responsibility of the Isle of Wight Council, and each such homelessness case costs the Council between £24,000 and £30,000.
The Law Centre is the primary agency that undertakes this work as there are no legal aid solicitors on the Island now. Without the presence of the Law Centre the victim of any potential Eviction would have to travel to the mainland to gain legal assistance.
Matt Thatcher, Manager of the Isle of Wight Law Centre, said:
“We have issued this letter to the Isle of Wight Councillors to draw their attention to the work we do and the extent to which our current funding of £70,000 supports the needy on the Isle of Wight and actually saves the Isle of Wight Council a very large sum of money.
“The work of the Law Centre dealing with Evictions is just part of what the organisation does. In addition we also deal with Mortgage repossessions, Rent Repossession, Homelessness reviews, insolvency, Bankruptcies, Welfare Benefits & Employment. The lack of a readily available resource to deal with this work will create hardship for those involved in such cases and in all cases will create extra work and expense for the Isle of Wight Council.
“It appears the IOW Council has given up trying to prevent homelessness, & is actively encouraging people to go to County Hall to make homeless applications. Which is very odd, because they haven’t got any houses?”
UPDATE WEDNESDAY – In response to the statement issued by the Isle of Wight Law Centre, an Isle of Wight Council spokesperson has said:
“Legally, the Isle of Wight Council has an obligation it must comply with when buying goods and services.
“Part of this legal obligation is to ensure that contract opportunities are advertised.
“The existing agreements for information, advice and guidance, including those with the Law Centre, will expire and it is necessary to ensure these are recommissioned so that valuable services for the Island can continue to be delivered.
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“The procurement process is open and transparent and the Law Centre can bid for the contract, either alone or in partnership with other voluntary organisations, should it wish to continue to deliver these services.
“The current actions are not about stopping the support available but instead looking at better ways of delivering them and aligning them across the board.”
UPDATE WEDNESDAY @ 14:36 – The Isle of Wight Law Centre has come back at the Council’s statement today, saying:
“All the Isle of Wight Law Centre has received is notice terminating our core funding in June 2019 – and that’s it.
“The Isle of Wight Council is now saying it intends to re-commission Advice, Information, & Guidance (AIG) services, but as the Law Centre doesn’t deliver AIG services, that proposed intention is meaningless.
“We’re not aware that any appropriate tenders have been published by the IOW Council”.