About the Citizens Advice Bucks Merger
Citizens Advice Bucks helps people from every walk of life, background, or age, with any problem they may have. Whether it is helping people out of poverty or financial hardship, preventing them from becoming homeless, or supporting any crisis in their lives, Citizens Advice Bucks is there to provide a confidential advice service to help people unpack complex problems in their lives and find a way forward.
Citizens Advice Bucks was formed in April 2021 through the merger of the 3 Bucks-based Citizens Advice organisations, Citizens Advice Aylesbury Vale, High Wycombe and Chiltern, each of which were financially healthy with long track records of successful service delivery to residents.
Why Did We Merge?
The creation of a Unitary Local Authority in Buckinghamshire in 2020 led to dissolution of all 4 District Councils and the County Council. The core grant funders of each of the Citizens Advice offices were now in one organisation, so it made sense to merge to simplify funding arrangements. Above that there were also 5 key indicators that a united county wide organisation would deliver better for its users and stakeholders:-
- All 3 organisations had already been working together to provide support to residents, including a National Lottery Fund partnership bringing the delivery of our advice functions closer together.
- A united Citizens Advice for Bucks provides new opportunities by creating one organisation that can partner more easily with other county wide voluntary and statutory organisations to deliver a common standard of services across Bucks.
- A united Citizens Advice for Bucks also offers significant benefits to potential clients, enabling us to build consistent services across Bucks and respond quickly to demand, irrespective of locality.
- A united Citizens Advice for Bucks creates one voice at the unitary level providing more powerful advocating for the needs of residents.
- It also enables us to attract larger and more diverse sources of funding
Unlike many newly merged charitable organisations, none of the merging entities was in any financial difficulties, and as a result the new merged Citizens Advice Bucks has started operations with a strong balance sheet which provides assurance for the organisation’s sustainability.
How we managed the merger
The decision to merge was made together in 2020 and substantial preparatory work was undertaken by the Trustees and management of the 3 merging organisations before April 2021, to ensure that an effective organisation was in place from day 1. We were supported by two expert consultants to manage the transition smoothly.
Our successful transition included:
- The appointment of a very experienced Chair, whose previous roles included that of Deputy Chair of Citizens Advice nationally and Chair of Citizens Advice Rural Affairs Committee
- The creation of a new Board of Trustees with representatives from the existing boards, complemented by new Trustees with specific expertise
- The new organisation passing a strict audit by National Citizens Advice in April 2021 on a wide range of governance, quality and related issues – as result Citizens Advice Bucks is fully accredited against the nationally approved quality standards
- Attracting both an experienced CEO with a successful track record of commissioned services from the previous Bucks County Council and a Head of Development and Communications, who has raised over £17m of funding
- A new AdviceLine for Bucks to provide telephony advice. Updated telephony and computer equipment, and steps towards a digital transformation that enabled us to serve Buckinghamshire communities better during lockdowns created by the pandemic.
United to tackle some of the biggest issues facing Buckinghamshire today.
Citizens Advice Bucks has a wide range of funders including Bucks Council, The National Lottery, the People’s Postcode Lottery, the Rothschild Foundation, The Clare Foundation, National Citizens Advice, Housing Associations, various Town and Parish Councils and other local organisations, and individual donors.
Citizens Advice Bucks is a much bigger organisation than any of its predecessor organisations. It has a planned turnover of £1.4m this year and consequently is a more robust and capable of sustaining service delivery. Citizens Advice Bucks now helps over 10,000 people tackle over 36,000 problems every year and employs more than 22 FTE staff (55 employees) and over 100 trained volunteers.
Citizens Advice Bucks is well positioned locally. The organisation chairs the Bucks Financial Insecurity Partnership – working jointly with Bucks Council and other civil society organisations from across Bucks to tackle the growth in demand for advice and support arising from the COVID pandemic. It is also a member of the key county level boards including the Voluntary Sector Recovery Group. Active partnership projects are in place with other major local delivery partners including Oxford Health, Buckinghamshire Mind, Age UK Bucks, Connection Support, Oasis, Wycombe Homeless Connection, Action for Youth and others.
Citizens Advice is working to help everyone affected by poverty, hardship or problems in their lives, ideally positioned to provide support, united as one organisation, working closely with our partners to deliver highly effective services over the next three years.