IN her recent letter to this newspaper, Louise Goldsmith, the leader of West Sussex County Council, studiously avoids answering concerns raised by the Don’t Cut Us Out Campaign regarding the costly and continuing management restructuring within the council. Instead she chose to imply that we are scaremongering.
Where we do agree with Ms Goldsmith is the importance of being clear about the facts.
It is fact that over the past three years, £31m has been removed from the care budget for older and disabled people, that day centres have been closed, community alarm subsidies ceased and personal budgets for care at home reduced. It is fact that many carers are at breaking point.
It is fact that her council plans to take a further £32m from this same care budget over the next two years.
Ms Goldsmith says they will do this through capping the amount of personal budgets available for care at home, by restructuring day services for people with learning disabilities and through changes to the number of qualified social workers. This is being done despite the increasing number of people over 75 years with complex health conditions and those living with dementia in the county where care at home and respite care is a basic and essential need.
Ms Goldsmith suggests highlighting these facts is scaremongering. We suggest it is more an inconvenience to her.
It also shows how out of touch she is with residents when she suggests they are not aware of the many demands and responsibilities on the council when setting budgets. For far too many vulnerable people as well as those on low incomes, the budget priorities are all too stark – it is fuel or food; personal care or carer breakdown. It is these people who are faced with really difficult choices.
Louise Goldsmith says the council is doing its best, but for whom?
Certainly for its own councillors who have seen a prominent rise in their allowances. Certainly for Chichester Festival Theatre which received a £1.25m subsidy for its reconstruction when day centres for the elderly are being closed for need of maintenance.
And all this is being done while flying in the face of advice from Eric Pickles that local authorities should use their reserves or raise council tax to fund these services.
Families and communities have always done their best to help themselves, but always believed they could rely on public services to be there as a safety net.
The Don’t Cut Us Out campaign calls on the council to hold a proper public consultation on its budget priorities and options for services in 2015/16, one that is fully transparent with outcomes that are mandated by those most affected.
Don’t Cut Us Out Campaign