At Thursday’s budget-setting meeting, the Liberal Democrats on Wokingham Borough Council condemned Tory plans to hit some of the borough’s most vulnerable people with dramatic increases in the cost of respite care and new charges for day care.
The Council only provides services for those with critical needs. Now the Tories are bringing in a new regime of means-tested charging.
Cllr Malcolm Armstrong (Liberal Democrat Councillor for Winnersh) who speaks for the Liberal Democrats on adult social care said: ‘Up until now, day care has been completely free. The first four weeks of respite care were charged at £126 a week. Now every week will be subject to the full charge of at least £575, more than four times as much.
‘The Conservatives have said that they won’t force people to pay the whole amount unless they have savings of £23,000. But even £23,000 won’t go far at £575 a week.
‘I worry about means-testing – experience suggests it will put people off. Respite and day care are essential for carers and the people they care for.
‘I thought vulnerable people were the top priority for the Conservatives. This budget’s a funny way of showing it.’
The Liberal Democrat councillor group at Wokingham have been pointing out some of the smaller items in the budget in the Tory 2010/11 budget that have a greater impact on residents than the relatively small sums of money involved might suggest.
Cllr Dee Tomlin (Liberal Democrat Councillor for Twyford ward) said: ‘The Conservatives have tried to keep the spotlight on transformation and a relatively low Council Tax increase. When we shone a light into some of the dark corners of the budget, we discovered that the Council will be charging for removal of graffiti for the first time and verges will be mown less often. Some charges to schools for Council services are being increased. And if a loved one dies, the cost of burying their cremated remains will be more than doubled to £559.
‘Compared to the figures being bandied about for the savings from transformation, the sums involved are small. But as we saw last year with dog poo bins and the public toilets, small cuts can have an effect on quality of life which is out of all proportion to the money they save.’
The Liberal Democrat leadership of Woodley Town Council will this week propose an increase to the town council precept of 1.45%, which amounts to just over 3 pence a week per household living in a band D property. This increase will be voted on by the Full Council at their meeting on 9th February.
Beth Rowland Liberal Democrat Leader of the town council said “I am pleased that we have managed to keep the increase low this year, as it has been a difficult year for many residents” she went on to say “The town council’s staff have worked hard to contain costs while continuing to provide good quality facilities and services to residents”
Coling Lawley, deputy leader of the council said “During the last financial year the world’s economies were in meltdown and many funds lost value. The town council’s investment portfolio was also affected and the collapse of Keydata, due to apparent fraud, posed a particular problem. In the light of all the economic turmoil that has adversely affected markets world-wide, the Investment Working Party is reviewing our investment strategy”
Beth Rowland said “Based on the latest estimates the town council will spend less in the year ending this April than it did in 2008/09. I feel a 1.45% increase in the precept is a reasonable figure as we have to be prudent and budget for some increased costs in some areas, such as energy, next year. Lib Dems’ aim is to help maintain Woodley’s sense of community and identity in the face of an onslaught of service cuts from the Tory controlled Wokingham Borough Council and I am pleased that we can continue to achieve this with a rise of just 3 pence a week in the precept.”