Debt advice to close

CASH-STRAPPED locals needing help with power bills will no longer be able to call on Stirling council’s financial counselling service.

Council executives say they have no choice but to close the 31-year-old service following state government cuts that slashed funding from $278,000 to $111,000 a year.

With two full-time staff and part-timers already stretched, reducing the service to one full-timer would have made it impossible to meet demand.

“This level of funding is not sufficient to operate a professional service along with the requirements for a vehicle, office accommodation, administration and reporting etc,” councillors were informed via a report this week.

Continuing the service would have seen the lone remaining counsellor “working in isolation” and dealing with ever-increasing waiting lists, not to mention client frustration.

In November WA local government minister Tony Simpson appointed a “consortium” of financial counselling service providers for the north metropolitan area, including Anglicare and the Spiers Centre.

The Spiers Centre, a not-for-profit organisation, is expected to pick up most of the slack from Stirling’s withdrawal. The council is supporting the group by offering council-owned office space at a discounted rate.

The new consortium will not provide services for people wanting to access WA’s “hardship utility grant scheme”.

Other councils have already closed their services. Cockburn and Fremantle nearly closed their centres but decided to fund the gap, with Cockburn down to one counsellor.

by EMMIE DOWLING

921 Gaye Blomfield 10x3

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