Tory-run Nottinghamshire County Council are planning savage cuts that will the elderly hardest. Plans include increased charges for home care & meals on wheels.
Tensions and contradictions are beginning to emerge in how Conservatives across the East Midlands are addressing the tightening financial pressures being faced by local authorities.
In publishing its draft budget earlier this month, Conservative run Nottinghamshire County Council has agreed to a package that sees a freeze in Council tax, in line with national Tory policy, whilst they highlight what they perceive as a need to save £85 million to balance the books.
As a result, reports the Nottingham Evening Post, it is the elderly who will suffer most:
“The Conservatives are proposing to save millions of pounds by increasing charges for home care; cutting, or increasing the cost of, transport for older people, particularly those who use day centres; closing day centres and charging for services; and increasing the costs of meals on wheels.”
The cuts themselves quite clearly go against everything the Conservatives promised to the people of Nottinghamshire in their manifesto during the county council elections of 2009. In it they clearly state:
“Conservatives will ensure residential homes remain open and available for those who need them, and respect and support older people who wish to remain in their own homes.
“We will support lonely and vulnerable older people who want to retain their independence but be within easy reach of their friends and family.”
Further questions have emerged:
• How then can the Conservatives explain a report on the BBC’s Politics Show for the East Midlands that has highlighted the story of one 90-year-old Nottinghamshire resident who has received a warning that the amount she has to pay for her home help services will rise by 36 per cent?
• Similarly, how do they square a commitment to supporting residential homes to stay open whilst selling off 13 council run homes?
• Furthermore, in the grip of such cuts, how can the Conservative run council explain a decision to spend £11,000 on refurbishing the ruling group’s offices whilst elderly residents face substantial increases in home care charges?
Conservative Council Leader, Kay Cutts, defended the budget decisions:
“We are meeting the challenges created by Gordon Brown’s failed economic policies and 28 years of his Labour colleagues here shying away from making difficult but necessary decisions.”
However, the Prime Minister, speaking to the Nottingham Evening Post before the Cabinet’s regional visit to Nottinghamshire on Friday, said of the County Council:
“To cut 30 million out of your budget at a time when we are wanting to get the economy moving forward is a mistake.
“The damage to jobs is obvious. The council has made these cuts simply because it’’s their ideological position.”
What is more, whilst Conservatives in Nottinghamshire seem prepared to implement such cuts quickly, the BBC’s Politics Show in the East Midlands reveals that:
“Over the border in Derbyshire, the Tories’ finance spokesman John Harrison says they still have not decided whether they will freeze their council tax.
“And they anticipate spreading cuts over a longer period.”
Kay Cutts and her administration in Nottinghamshire have a number of points to consider, and whilst attacking Gordon Brown seems to Ms Cuts to be the best form of defence, such attacks seem hollow given that the council has the ability to protect those elderly residents who now face service cuts and price increases for services they rely on.
Instead, Conservatives in the county seem wedded to ideologically driven freezes on the council tax, at the expense of some of the county’s most vulnerable citizens. Why does Derbyshire County Council, under Conservative control, feel able not to commit to tax freezes?
Whilst Nick Clegg has revealed that he would be prepared to support a Cameron administration in a hung Parliament, does this, coupled with developments in Nottinghamshire, suggest that the two parties are now as one in Mr Clegg’s commitment to “savage cuts?”Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.