It’s a lie to say that austerity is over, that’s the view of veteran Hastings councillor Godfrey Daniel who says those most in need are being forced to suffer for nothing more than political dogma.
Today East Sussex County Council’s lead member for adult social care and health, Conservative councillor Carl Maynard, is likely to initiate a public consultation on plans to cut £730,000 from its adult social care budget and that would include removing the subsidy the council currently provides to the meals on wheels service – officially known as ‘meals in the community’ – forcing the 750 people who currently make use of the service to pay up to £8 for each meal they receive.
Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Hastings Peter Chowney says: “Godfrey is absolutely right when he says austerity isn’t over.
“Funding for all council services is still being cut year-on-year, with an estimated £6bn gap emerging in council budgets across the coming year. These proposed cuts to the meals-on-wheels service are just one more manifestation of how austerity hits the most vulnerable hardest.
“I understand why East Sussex County Council is being forced to propose these cuts, but whether they’re made at County Hall or Whitehall, they’re still Tory cuts.”
In a press release issued this week East Sussex County Council (ESCC) tried to dress up what is going on, saying: “The public could soon have their say on proposals for changes to support from adult social care for some people in East Sussex.”
If, as expected, Mr Maynard approves the proposals the suggested cuts will be subject to a ten week public consultation process.
Keith Hinkley, director for adult social care and health, said: “Despite one-off funding from central government for social care, we still need to save £730,000 from our adult social care budget in 2019/20.
“To make sure we continue to provide the right support for the most vulnerable people in our community we need ensure our £171.3 million budget is spent where it can have the biggest impact.
“To achieve this, we have to review the way we in which we deliver services and talk to people about how any potential changes would affect them.”
A report to the lead member sets out proposals to remove the subsidy for meals in the community, currently received by around 750 people across the county.
The subsidy, which is not means tested, costs the council £4.10 per meal – around £500,000 each year. Under the proposals, those receiving the subsidy would be able to continue to receive meals in their home, but would pay the full cost, which ranges from £4 to £8.
A further £247,000 can be saved by changing the way the council supports working age adults, aged between 18 and 64, to live independently across East Sussex.
If approved, the consultation will present the results of research into long-term support and an action plan. People will then be asked to give their views on the suggested approach.
The proposals only look at the long-term support received by those eligible under Government-set criteria. Short-term support, help in accessing community support and the provision of equipment would not be affected.
Mr Daniel is unimpressed: “These proposed cuts show that ‘Austerity is Over’ is a lie. Yet again the Conservative Government and County Council is making those in most need suffer for the sake of their political dogma!
“The sooner we elect a more caring government – the better!” Mr Daniel told Hastings In Focus this week.
If and when the lead member approves the proposals being put before him, the consultation into the meals in the community subsidy will begin on Tuesday, May 28th and run until Tuesday, August 6th.
The consultation on long-term support for working age adults would begin on Tuesday, June 4th, and run until Tuesday, August 13th.
The results of both consultations and proposals on the next steps will be presented to members in September.