Letter: county budget a ‘terrible decision’

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THE DON’T Cut Us Out Campaign, which speaks up for elderly and disabled people across West Sussex, has slammed West Sussex County Council for its damaging and cruel 2012-13 budget, passed at the full council meeting held on Friday February 17.

The Tory budget does nothing to reverse the cuts passed last year, yet they had a clear opportunity to do just that. Instead, the budget for 2012-13 goes on to make further attacks on vulnerable people.

A further £7.6m has been cut from the already diminished Adults’ Services budget, which protects and supports vulnerable adults across the county. Yet in the same budget, an extra £15.8m was put into the council’s cash reserves. This takes the council’s total usable reserves to around £140m.

It is outrageous that at a time of massive hardship for some of the most vulnerable disabled and elderly people in our communities, Conservatives are adding to their reserves!

Local people are shocked when you tell them that while the council is slashing services, it is also adding to reserves with the money it could have used to save those services. Can councillors please explain to people losing their care package how this is morally justified?

The Conservative budget also froze council tax. This will shrink the council’s tax base by £9.6m in every subsequent year. Don’t Cut Us Out has strong fears this will mean further cuts for vulnerable people down the line, and contends that a modest council tax increase would have enabled the council to reverse its cuts to social care eligibility criteria, passed controversially last year.

The council tax freeze only puts pennies into household pockets, yet takes millions away from the most vulnerable. The Conservatives are taking a political gamble – that people in West Sussex would rather have an few extra pence in their pocket each week than protect the services which blind people, physically disabled adults, people with learning disabilities and the elderly rely on to maintain their health and quality of life.

This is a terrible misjudgement of the decent people who live in our county, so we will keep campaigning to get it put right.

The Don’t Cut Us Out Campaign has a free helpline on 01243 555561 or via www.dontcutusout.org.uk.

The campaign also provides a free advice and support service for elderly and disabled people who are about to be re-assessed by the council for their eligibility for social care, or who have already lost funding and services.

BARRY PICKTHALL

Don’t Cut Us Out - Speaking out for the Vulnerable across West Sussex

The Street, Walberton, Arundel