Advice bureau may move out

SWINDON and District Citizens’ Advice Bureau will have to vacate its town centre base – in a drive to help needy families pay for school uniforms.

Swindon Council made the decision to sell the CAB drop-in centre because it would cost too much to refurbish it, leaving no money to invest in grants.

The authority is the trustee of the WG Little Scholarship and Band Concert Fund, which is used to provide contributions towards school uniforms.

The fund was originally bequeathed in the 1930s for annual scholarships for preparing for work or extra-curricular activities, and an annual band concert.

The trust holds just over £200,000 in cash, plus two properties in Faringdon Road, with an annual interest income on the balance of about £24,000 and an annual rental income of about £20,000, which is handed out in grants.

The CAB drop-in centre is based at Number 1 Faringdon Road, also known as Faringdon House, but the council says the building needs modernising.

The other property, Number 3 Faringdon Road, has been empty for some years and the council says prospective tenants have been put off by the scale of repairs required.

Swindon Council estimates it would cost about £100,000 each to bring the properties up to a modern standard to maximise rental opportunities.

This would leave no cash to invest for grants, so full council on Thursday night agreed with officers’ recommendations to sell them to maximise income for the fund.

Coun Mark Edwards, the cabinet member for finance, said the council was working with the CAB to ensure that alternative accommodation was secured.

He said: “This particular fund owns two properties, Numbers 1 and 3 Faringdon Road, and if we refurbish them and wipe out the fund, there will be no income left from the fund.

“We don’t think that that’s the best use of the fund.

“We think the best way to use the fund is to sell these properties and put the money back into the trust.

“We’re working with the CAB to make sure they aren’t made homeless.”

Coun Cindy Matthews (Lab, Lydiard and Freshbrook) said: “I’m a trustee of the CAB and I know they’re having some discussions with the council about being relocated into a group charities hub.

“I don’t know what the timescales for this would be.”

Swindon Council has recently been considering plans to turn Sanford House, in Sanford Street, into a central hub for charities and voluntary groups once the children services department moves out.

Coun Des Moffatt (Lab, Rodbourne Cheney), said: “I was consulted on this project and I support it.

“This is not the borough council’s plaything. We as councillors are its custodians, nothing more, nothing less.”

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