Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Full council budget meeting

Yesterday was a historic day in Reading. The Lib Dem and Conservative councillors who voted the budget through will be remembered. But not as heroes who saved the day, as villains preying on the weak and vulnerable.

New Labour raised the axe, with a continuation of Thatcher's policy agenda -- privatisation, deregulation of financial markets and repression of trade unions -- but last night it was the Tories and the Lib Dems who brought it down locally.

Labour's three amateur amendments all fell. As did mine to reverse the grant cut to Reading Council for Racial Equality -- thanks to Councillor Tickner for seconding it. Although, at least mine was complemented for being costed, which none of the Labour amendments were in any detail.

So the budget went through unamended containing £19 million of cuts. Thousands of people will lose care from the council. School meal prices are going up. Local pensioner bus fare concessions have been cut. The list goes on. Depressing.

300 council jobs will also go. The worst-case scenario is a £2 million redundancy payout, 300 people not paying tax and 300 people claiming benefits. Is this good? No. Will it stimulate the economy? No. Will it result in a fairer Reading? No. And this is just the beginning. We have at least three more years of this to come if the Lib Dems and Conservatives continue to be able to advance their agenda.

The meeting finished just before midnight, so I was glad that I had taken some lasagne that I cooked earlier in the week to eat in one of the breaks! Very few members of the public made it to the end.

So where next? Well better late than never the leader of the Lib Dems locally Councillor Bayes has joined with other Lib Dems in saying that the settlement from the government is unfair. Does Councillor Cumpsty, leader of the Conservatives, have the courage to start pushing back too?

But really neither the councillors nor the MPs are powerful. It is the people of Reading, the people who came to the demonstration last night against the cuts, and the people who stood in the public gallery and the foyer listening who have the power. I am sure those people will use their power at election time to show what they think of the Coalition locally, and I'm sure they will use their power more creatively in the interim.

I will continue to work with local people for a fairer deal for all of Reading.


The other Warren said...

Rob you are quite entitled to express your views but to say that thousands of people will lose all support is just scaremongering.

Rob White said...

Warren, there are currently approximately 3500 people receiving care from the Council. The council has just set a budget which doesn't contain enough money in it to allow care to be provided at three levels of eligibility criteria as it is now. The council is currently consulting on cutting eligibility criteria -- raising the bar -- meaning that between approximately 1000 and 2000 people will not be eligible for care from the Council after a decision has been made. Hence my comment "thousands will lose care from the Council".

The other Warren said...

That simply isn't the case Rob. I attended one of the consultation meetings and this was raised.

The Head of Adult Social care told the meeting that once a final decision was made everyone would be reassessed and she expected
fairly significant numbers to move into the higher level of eligibility as a result.

The other Warren said...

This would leave some people outside the criteria but it would be hundreds not thousands.
That isn't good but just exaggerating the position only
scares people and does your party
no favours.
Yes oppose the plans but do it

Rob White said...

The eligibility criteria are set at a national level. As I understand it the only way someone will move from one of the lower levels -- greater moderate or substantial -- to critical is if their need increases and they meet the critical eligibility criteria. This happens as people get older and need more support for example. But not overnight. This won't happen just because someone is re-assessed. However it may happen if someone's care package is removed, their condition deteriorates and their need goes up. Then when they are reassessed it may well be the case that their need has increased greatly and they are now critical -- i.e. they will die if they don't receive care. The council would then reintroduce a new -- and probably more expensive -- care package.

The other Warren said...

That isn't my understanding.

There is a national criteria but its interpreted differently by
individual councils.

Some people haven't been reassesed
for months so they situation may
well have changed.

As a carer i know that social services aren't perfect but i do believe they are striving to help.