Welfare reforms may leave Peterborough facing £35m shortfall

Chief executive of Peterborough Citizens Advice Bureau Keith Jones with Mayor June Stokes and guest speaker Adrian Chapman of Peterborough City Council at the CAB annual meeting at St Mary's church, New Road. Photo: David Lowndes
Chief executive of Peterborough Citizens Advice Bureau Keith Jones with Mayor June Stokes and guest speaker Adrian Chapman of Peterborough City Council at the CAB annual meeting at St Mary's church, New Road. Photo: David Lowndes
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Changes to the benefits system and reduced incomes could result in £35 million being lost to Peterborough, prompting warnings of “civil unrest” in the city.

A recent study carried out by Sheffield University estimated that the figure could be even larger and the research has prompted a warning from council chiefs of a long, hard winter for some residents in Peterborough.

Speaking at an annual meeting of the Peterborough Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), Adrian Chapman, the city council’s head of neighbourhoods, warned that many people in the city could be facing “tipping points”.

Mr Chapman said: “The research is quite staggering. It estimates that the cost of welfare reform in Peterborough will see £35 million less going into the city.

“This could be the tipping point that pushes people over the edge. I would hate for this to be the thing that triggers civil unrest in Peterborough.

“A couple of years ago, when the summer riots took place in London, the police here said we could be close to seeing something similar, now we could again be close to experiencing similar unrest.

“We are in summer at the moment so heating bills aren’t an issue for people, but come winter who knows what the impact could be.”

Keith Jones, chief executive of the Peterborough CAB branch, highlighted the work the group is doing to support people in need of help.

The group has recently set up the Peterborough Community Assessment Scheme (PCAS) specifically aimed at offering welfare reform advice.

Mr Jones said: “There are many people out there struggling with bills and debts. We are working hard to support them.”

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Factfile: Debt remains a big issue for Peterborough residents

The vast majority of people visiting the Peterborough branch of the Citizens Advice Bureau during 2012/13 were in need of help with debt problems.

Over 7,300 people visited the branch during the year and 32 per cent were for debt issues.

Twenty seven per cent visited for help with benefits and tax credits.

Ten per cent were for advice concerning immigration, asylum and nationality and nine per cent were for housing issues.

The CAB also helped save 137 local families from being made homeless.

Peterborough branch of the Citizens Advice Bureau:

{http://www.peterboroughcab.org.uk/Peterborough Citizens Advice Bureau website|go to www.peterboroughcab.org.uk/}, based at 16-17 St Mark’s Street, Peterborough, PE1 2TU

Advice Line - 0844 499 4120 - is available 10 am to 12 noon, then 1 pm to 4 pm, Monday to Friday, with an automated service out of hours or when all advisers are busy.