New charges for elderly and disabled

YOUR editorial welcomes the executive's budget proposals and the low council tax rise, while acknowledging that the 'devil, of course, will be in the detail'. Before you raise a glass to 'natural wastage', let me point out that terminating posts which ha

YOUR editorial welcomes the executive's budget proposals and the low council tax rise, while acknowledging that the 'devil, of course, will be in the detail'. Before you raise a glass to 'natural wastage', let me point out that terminating posts which have become vacant over the past months and not renewing fixed term contracts does not mean that important frontline services are unaffected. In fact, some teams working in key priority areas are being weakened and services will suffer. Your support for the cuts is qualified by saying 'provided vulnerable members of our community do not bear the burden'. But this is precisely what will happen. To illustrate this, we were given the executive's amendments with a proposed two per cent council tax rise, just one hour before the start of the council meeting. In the course of introducing the proposals, Cllr Nigel Ashton further reduced the proposed increase to 1.9 per cent. This amendment will save the 80,000 council tax payers just £1.08 in a year on Band D. At the same time, the papers given to us just before the meeting proposed to introduce new charges for elderly and disabled residents who use day centres. The charges to be collected in 2008/9 will be £80,000, the equivalent of 0.1 per cent of council tax rise. There has been no consultation with service users or carers and once these charges become embedded in the budget, any consultation will be pointless. There are potential effects on vulnerable children, another priority area for the council, as well as cuts to sports development and support for voluntary groups. A council tax rise which is likely to be less than half the average of other unitary authorities may sound good today, but it also stores up more pressures for next year's round of cuts. If a large council tax rise is to be avoided next year, more services and amenities such as libraries, toilets and swimming pools will surely be at risk. The applause will soon die down. Are we marching back to the eighties under the banner of 'no such thing as society?'CLLR TOM LEIMDORFER - Congresbury


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