6 February 2015
One rule for you....
Cllr Keith Barrow said on the radio last week that after years of cutting Shropshire now has the lowest spending per head on Adult Social Care in England. But far from hanging his head in shame, he says it is “proof of pudding”. In his make-believe world Shropshire alone has found the holy grail of providing excellent services for peanuts. How foolish he must think all his colleagues in the hundreds of other Councils are. You have to admire his gall but his claim doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
If you look at the Adult Social Care Outcomes for Shropshire (www. a scof.hsic.gov.uk/outcomes) far frm being the best they are worse than England and West Midland averages for:
• Quality of life
• Service users with control over their daily life
• Service users with as much social contact as they would like
• Older people at home 91 days after leaving hospital into reablement
• Service users getting information
• People who use services feelings safe service users getting information and much worse for older people receiving reablement after leaving hospital
Of course it helps to keep costs down when you flatly refuse to pay a living wage. But the reality is that by keeping the Council tax frozen for five years Barrow has made a financial difficulty into a disaster. He will have to cut harder and harder until the rapidly approaching day comes when the Council will be bankrupt because it cannot meet its statutory obligations and then there will be a massive hike in taxes because the number of older people are rising not falling.
He told Shropshire radio that his dogmatic instance on freezing Council tax was to help those struggling to make ends meet. He forgot to add that the poorest receive Council Tax benefit and so wouldn’t have to pay a penny towards any increase; or that many of the people “just above the benefit levels” would become eligible for assistance if the Council tax had risen with inflation. May-be he also forgot that Council tax is a progressive tax and those in the smallest properties pay least.
By contrast people like Keith Barrow and some of his Cabinet colleagues who live in expensive band G properties can afford to, and would have to, pay more if Council tax rose with inflation. Over the last 5 years that Council tax has been frozen, inflation has totalled 13.7%. If Council Tax, like VAT and other taxes had kept pace with inflation people as fortunate as Cllr Barrow would be paying some £250 a year more, and the Council would be millions of pounds better off every year. It might mean a little less wining, dining and holidaying for some but it would have kept services going for the vulnerable, and would have resolve the embarrassment of Barrow's insensitive tweets from the beach when staff are being made redundant. Don't be fooled, the Tory administration in Shirehall is saying to the poorest you won't benefit from our decision to freeze Council tax (though we will) but you will suffer from service cuts. Just as their friends in Westminster have delivered a doubling in wealth for the richest 1,000 people in our society whilst the rest of us have had the sharpest decline in living standards since the second world war.
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