Funding crisis could see Brent Community Law Centre close for good

Worker claims organisation is in jeopardy because of swathing cuts

A community law centre which helps the borough’s most vulnerable residents could close for good if it loses a funding battle.

A worker at Brent Community Law Centre says the organisation is being attacked with “cuts from both sides” and could struggle to operate beyond this year.

The centre, which offers free legal advice, had a 20 per cent cut in funding from Brent Council and now it is feared that new government plans to cut Legal Aid could spell further disaster.

Ian Cane, a co-ordinator at the centre, said: “It seems like they [the government] want us to go back to Victorian times when only the rich can benefit.

“There are vulnerable people who live in Brent, for many of whom English is not a first language, and they cannot afford legal advice.”

Under the proposals, a �350m cut in funding is expected to be introduced next year as part of the Legal Aid Reform Bill, while, in turn, the local authority is set to undertake a review of the centre’s services.

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Under the proposals, a variety of free guidance, including family law and housing and employment advice, would be scrapped.

Last year Brent Council announced it was cutting the funds for the centre from �200,000 per year to �183,000 and Mr Cane said workers were already noticing a difference in resources.

The law centre is supporting the Justice for All campaign, a group opposed to the Bill.

They have been backed by Ahmed Shahzad, a former Willesden Green councillor and Brent mayor.

He said: “The centre does an excellent job in providing comfort for people who have no money and are vulnerable.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Our measures target Legal Aid at the people who need legal support the most, and on the most serious cases.”

Brent Council said it had agreed to fund the law centre for a further year but would be “reviewing services” later in the year.