Letter: We cannot keep cutting services

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I respond to the letter (Peggy Alcock, Stamford Mercury May 16) from a distressed 92 year old lady who is a resident based in my Ward, who attends the day centre with her friends.

I trade as an Independant County Councillor, working solely for my residents, free of all party politics and the Conservative Party budget whip.

For the last 2 years the majority of cross party County Councillors have accepted the leadership and cabinet steer of council tax freezes amounting to approximatly £500,000 each year, thus opting to refrain from increasing residents council tax’s but instead has decided to borrow enormous amounts of funding, on credit, from the cabinet minister Eric Pickles. This has been to achieve a popular and politically based vote winning own goal, but sadly with the inevitable catostrophic result. I have either abstained or voted against both of the two council tax freezes within the budget and I have stated, in the chamber, that all of Mr Pickles’ loans have to be paid back eventually and paid for in either non statutory council service cuts or a cut in front line services. My alternate budget steer and proposal was to increase council taxes by “very small” yearly amouts instead of borrowing off the Government in 2 enormous yearly lump sums. This is much the same as most sensible private companies might have proposed, to increase either their customer services or production charges every year to enable the customer to financially cope.

Thus budgeting for spreading those small increases over a period of time, rather than postponing large increases to a later date. This often proves very difficult to cope with and accept when it arrives. It was obvious to me at the time that this would be a very bad policy and steer for Rutland residents and the terrible result we all see published now in the Mercury is that the most vulnerable people in all wards and across our county namely the elderly, disabled and our young people, who will all now be paying enormously for Mr Pickle’s political loans.

It is unclear as to how the proposed savings of £925,300 in 2014-15 are really going to be made. The so called “different ways of working” mantra being pushed and proposed to pay back the loans, still means deep cuts somewhere and there is only really front line services left to be axed. I have previously proposed the following idea to the council leadership and cabinet as an alternate way forward to the proposed cabinet cuts of £82,000 of funding and the closure of the much needed Day Care Centres for Rutland’s elderly.

We have an extremely high, ageing population in Rutland who will need these services in the future. Where is the foresight from the cabinet?

It has come to my attention that the Council is directing residents towards an alternative day care centre where residents who are self funders can afford to visit.

This in turn has intentionally decreased the number of users at the Age Concern run centres where the council are now stating that the take up is low ! What about residents who cannot afford to pay higher fees.

What about users with Alzheimers or dementia who cannot be catered for at this centre? Financial officers at RCC have confirmed to me that we have approx 15,000 households currently paying council tax. My proposal to save the day centres is that if we were to ask the residents in Rutland to pay an additional £25 per year to have their green waste bin emptied this would increase council revenue by approx £375,000 per year, should all households opt for this.

Other local authorities have shown a high take up level of this payable service, after public consultation to protect their public services.

This would generate nearly 4 and half times enough revenue to keep the day centres open for our ever increasing ageing population.

So, do the services we provide to our vulnerable Rutland elderly, disabled and young people really need to take the brunt of the Conservative vote winning council tax freeze policies once again?

To the residents of Rutland, the choice is yours. You have the option to try to make your views heard and your council listen to you and take note of your service priorities ! The open meeting times are published in the Rutland Mercury.

Councillor Gene Plews

Oakham South East ward