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Community Law cuts hours in Marlborough

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An essential community service in Marlborough is operating at reduced hours and with reduced staff due to budget shortfalls.

Community Law Marlborough has lodged a submission to the Marlborough District Council in the annual plan for $10,000 to cover the deficit.

Community Law Marlborough manager Stephanie Moses said the centre had to reduce its opening hours at the start of the year.

Before Christmas, the centre underwent a restructure and had to cut 20 staff working hours, which affected two staff.

Everyone had picked up a bit of work to ensure clients still got free legal advice, but it was not sustainable long term, Moses said.

“It puts a huge load on the staff that we’ve got. We don’t have the funds to increase staff numbers to go with the increase in work.”

Community Law Centres New Zealand chief executive Elizabeth Tennet said staff were very committed to helping those less fortunate, and that staff earned salaries below market rate.

She said the Government was taking advantage of staff.

“They are exploiting the goodwill that our staff have in wanting to give back to the community.”

Community Law Centres nationwide were funded by the Ministry of Justice.

Despite increased client numbers and operation costs, funding from the Government had remained static since 2008.

Tennet said the Government refused to give any extra funding, despite the fact the centres saved the Ministry of Justice money by resolving issues without needing to go to court.

Tennet said the Government, not district councils, was responsible for funding shortfalls.

“It would be very nice of council to cover it.”

The Marlborough District Council would meet on Monday to consider all submissions and their decisions would be incorporated into the final annual plan to be adopted on June 29.

The decisions would determine any change to the level of rates from July 1.

_By Milly Smith for the Marlborough Express