Campaigners vow to fight to the bitter end against cuts

CAMPAIGNERS have vowed to ‘fight until the end’ against government plans which would see the budgets of local advice agencies slashed.

Julie Eason, manager of East Sussex Advice Partnership spoke out against the proposals to cut legal aid, laid out in reforms voted through the commons by MPs including Hastings MP Amber Rudd, on Wednesday.

She said: “Given that we are an area with an unusually high reliance on the public sector, and that one in three households in Hastings are in receipt of some kind of benefit, the Coalition cuts are hitting especially hard here.”

Ms Eason, who is on the shortlist for the area’s Labour parliamentary candidate, added that what was particularly disappointing was that an amendment, which would have seen legal aid retained in welfare benefit appeal cases, was narrowly defeated.

Among those hit hardest by the reforms, would be government funded agencies such as Hastings Advice and Representation Centre (HARC) and the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).

These agencies use legal aid to provide help with issues such as debt, unemployment and benefits.

Amber Rudd who has previously spoken out publicly against cuts to legal aid, said: “The government has said it will put £20 million aside for advice agencies in this financial year.

“I am reasonably optimistic it could be a good slice for Hastings.”

She stood by her decision to vote in favour of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, saying: “There was so much in this bill, there was no way I could vote against it.”

Deputy leader of Hastings Borough Council Jay Kramer said of Amber Rudd’s decision: “She is not prepared to stand up for the people of Hastings, it is terrible.”

The justice bill is one step closer to becoming law, and is now due to be debated in the House of Lords.

Julie added: “We have not given up, we will take the fight to the Lords.”