Lack of funds threatens advice shop

A LEGAL advice centre is facing the threat of closure after its local council refused a request to increase its maintenance grant.

Southall Rights Legal Advice Centre, west London, is complaining that Ealing Council has only provided a £7,000 grant for a service which has annual running costs of £60,000.

Kashminder Bhogal, barrister and co-ordinator at the centre, calls the award “paltry” and warns the centre may not survive.

He is collecting evidence of similar financial difficulties facing other legal advice and law centres throughout the country.

“The centre is running into debt,” he says. “We need to keep this service going for the community, and for the service to keep going, we need an injection of funds from the local authority.”

The centre employs Bhogal, one other adviser, and three volunteers, and offers a full range of legal services. As well as the council grant, it relies on Green Form legal aid work and donations.

Isabel Manley, of the Law Centres Federation, says many law and legal advice centres are facing difficulties due to successive years of underfunding.

A spokesman for Ealing Council says the budget for grant aid is depleted for this financial year.