Budget savings may put vulnerable people at risk, councillors warned
SAVINGS proposed for the city council over the next three years will lead to more homelessness, rough sleeping and more chance of vulnerable people coming to harm – a senior councillor has said.
Councillor Fareed Hussain, cabinet member for adult social care, spoke out as the authority's Labour leadership agreed its budget proposals for 2013-14 and 2014-15.
The plans also include an estimated budget for 2015-16 and the council said, in the three years combined, it must save £62 million in the face of cuts to its grant from Government.
Mr Hussain's comments referred to issues like cuts to spending on housing support – such as hostels and advice – from £3.8 million to £1.8 million and to the halving of its voluntary sector grants for organisations which help the elderly – both by 2013-14.
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The latter includes cash for luncheon clubs, voluntary shopping schemes and groups which provide the isolated with company. It will see a £460,000 cut.
Mr Hussain said: "We will see an increase in homelessness, an increase in rough sleepers and we can't guarantee 100% any more that nobody will suffer harm."
Mr Hussain said he believed the cabinet should "collectively apologise to Derby people for presenting them with a budget that is going to cause hardship".
Asked after the meeting to explain his comment about harm, Mr Hussain said the council benefited from people in the voluntary sector alerting its staff to people in need. He said people were more likely to "slip through the net" if funding enabling them to do this was cut.
Changes to the council's original budget after consultation with the public included £10,000 being provided to pay for indemnity insurance for the city's 12 volunteer Friends groups.
It was feared this would go because funding for Wild Derby, the organisation which provides it, is being ended.
Officers have also recommended retaining the council's sexual abuse service, in Leopold Street. Instead of cutting the £100,000 needed to run it from its budget, the council now proposes to raise the cash by encouraging other councils to use and pay for the service.
Another change sees blue-badge holders, who receive higher-rate mobility allowance, set to continue receiving three hours' free parking in council car parks. Plans to cut 350 jobs, grass over seasonal flower beds and close a block of toilets in Markeaton Park remain.
A final decision on the budget for the next two years will be made at a full council meeting next Wednesday.
Last night, the cabinet also agreed a change which means 12,200 people who do not pay council tax – for reasons such as being in receipt of Jobseekers' Allowance or Income Support – will have to pay up to 20% from April 1.
This is to help plug a £2.6 million funding black hole caused by a cut in funding from Government.
In yesterday's report about the council tax change, it should have made it clear that the exemption for pensioners refers to those who qualify through the benefits they receive. Pensioners pay full council tax.