Challenge expected over successful advice project

Showdown: Area Council bosses to be challenged over advice scheme
Showdown: Area Council bosses to be challenged over advice scheme
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Councillors who provide a highly successful advice service for residents are to challenge their own colleagues after it emerged residents in other parts of town have been told to use the service – which is financed from a local budget.

Barnsley Council has a network of ‘area councils’ which operate throughout the borough, with councillors representing different wards given an annual budget to spend on improving their own neighbourhoods by meeting local demands.

Several provide an advice service for residents and they have proved an extraordinary success, resulting in massive debt piles being written off or restructured in many cases, with assistance given also resulting in many people making benefit claims for significant amounts of cash.

The North Area Council, which takes in four council wards covering the Darton district, Old Town and St Helens areas, operates one such advice service, provided through a partnership with the Citizens Advice Bureau and DIAL, which in the last quarter alone generated around £650,000 in successful benefit claims for those who asked for help.

In the same period, debts of £116,000 have also been ‘managed’.

However, it has emerged that some of those turning up to seek assistance live outside the district covered by the area council – which is meant to spend its money to benefit that specific area – and have been actively advised to seek help there.

Some of those asking for assistance lived in areas including Dodworth and Royston, the area council has been told and chairman Coun David Leech said he would “now be talking to the chairs of those area councils” because some did not have a similar project running.

“I don’t want to stop them coming, but we can have a look and see if we can help in some other way,” he said.

Coun Roy Miller added: “I expressed concerns that people are coming from outside the area.

“We are paying for this and there are massive benefits.

“People who are lost for anything are getting sat down, calmed and then getting money through. We should be asking why others are not doing this.

“Other areas are recommending them to come to us, that is what we were told. They shouldn’t do that. We have a limited budget and don’t have the staff time available to start looking after the whole of the borough.”