Tought to protect services as cuts hit warns councillor

By Ian Dipple Friday 08 August 2014 Updated: 08/08 09:25

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COUNCIL chiefs will run out of options to protect services if funding to local authorities continues to be slashed.

Coun Mark Shurmer issued the warning as councillors approved plans to charge residents in a Batchley sheltered housing scheme for vital support services as a result of budget cuts by Worcestershire County Council.

From October 6, residents living in extra care housing at St David's Way and Queen's Cottages on Willow Way will have to pay £33 a week - or 1,716 a year - to cover the cost of the having a staff member on site 24/7, monitoring of the lifeline system, activities and daily wellbeing visits. This will increase to £36 from April 2015. The services charge, which covers items such as communal cleaning and managing the scheme, will also rise to £22 a week - up from £11.40 per week for those in St David's House and £4.10 a week for residents in Queen's Cottages.

The move is a result of Worcestershire County Council's decision to axe Supporting People funding worth about £87,000 for the scheme in 2013/14. The county council is also cutting the hourly rate it pays staff to care for residents from £13.70 to £13.20 an hour.

Without introducing the charges the borough council would be faced with a shortfall of more than £60,000 by 2015/16.

Officers stressed for those on housing benefit the service charge will be paid for, attendance allowance payments would cover the new £33 support charge for most people while for those paying for themselves the cost of support would actually drop from £62.50 a week.

Coun Shurmer praised officers for their creativity in finding a way to keep the scheme going while minimising the impact on residents.

But he warned if the Government continued to cut council funding the way they had, they would run out of options.

"There will be cuts next year and maybe the year after that and the year after that and when you haven't got the money coming in to provide services either people pay more or the service suffers," he said.

"Even with officers finding ways to run it you can only go down to the well so many times before the well is dry."

Council leader Bill Hartnett added: "We are not looking to make money out of this as an organisation, it's trying to meet the shortfall imposed on us and keep the service going as best we can."

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