THE plight of Halton's cash-strapped families could worsen with news that the Citizens Advice Bureau may have to cut its services.

Despite the bureau having to deal with the greatest ever demand for its financial and legal advice, staff are reeling after learning a major source of council funding is to be cut.

Hitesh Patel, Halton CAB chief executive, said tough choices now had to be made. At worst, cuts will mean the closure of either its Widnes or Runcorn offices. He also fears redundan -cies among the 20 paid staff in its team of 50.

Mr Patel said the move would be a 'huge blow' to the 5,000 residents it helps every year and comes at a time of record poverty and debt in Halton, almost double the national average.

Mr Patel has received documents suggesting CAB funding could fall by more than £30,000.

He said: 'In fairness to the council, they have been consulting with us about their budgetary pressures and warning us of the likelihood of a cut in our grant for over six months now.

'But I am still disappointed about the size of cut.

'In order to survive our services now need to dramatically down-size.'

CAB is now urging clients to visit and fill out a survey on how down-sizing can be achieved with the minimum impact.