Vulnerable to take the brunt of �50m Westminster cuts

Budget for council services will be slashed over the next two years with social care hit the hardest

DISABLED, elderly and mentally ill people in Westminster look set to have their support slashed after the council announced radical proposals for �50million worth of cuts.

Almost �15million will be cut from social services including a 50 per cent reduction in day care (�4.6m), 25 per cent reduction in assessment (�2.3m) and home care (�1.5m) and a halving in funding for meals for the elderly.

Mental health support services will also see a �600,000 reduction in funding under Westminster’s provisional budget for the next two years, which was announced on Monday.

Gabby Machell, chief executive of Westminster Society for people with learning difficulties, says the cuts are more widespread than expected.

“I don’t think we envisaged that the cuts would be to this extent,” she said. “They are spread right across social care so there’s no one who isn’t affected. People with mental health probelms, with learning difficulties, vulnerable people in social housing – no one has been able to escape this.

“The council is talking about introducing things like proper signposting for vulnerable people to allow them to ask for help but at the same time you look at this proposed budget and wonder how they are going to deliver these things. I don’t know how it can be achieved with this budget.”

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Under the proposals, more than �5m will be cut from children’s services, with a �12m reduction for recycling, rubbish collection and street cleansing.

A number of community services will also be hit with library services and staff numbers reduced, and a cut in the budget for new books.

Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of Westminster Labour, said: “The cuts for adult care are really quite appalling. It’s as if they have been singled out for the biggest and deepest cuts and there’s no justification for it whatsoever.

“It’s typical of Westminster Council to claim it is protecting frontline services when the reality is it is making the deepest ever cuts to services for the most vulnerable. They are saying one thing and doing another.

“To reduce a range of services like street cleaning, refuse collection and recycling and simply assert that they can maintain the same level of service is just nonsense.”

The council says it is proposing to generate �23m in efficiency savings with back office job cuts and more volunteers in order to minimise reductions in frontline services.

Around 250 jobs would disappear under the council’s plans which would further reduce a workforce that has already seen 531 posts cut in the past 18 months. It is also planning to halve managerial costs across some services by 2015 by merging functions with Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea.

Cllr Melvyn Caplan, Westminster Council’s cabinet member for finance, said: “No-one wants to cut services, but previous levels of spending are simply unsustainable and like it or not, we simply cannot afford to do all the things we used to.

“This means that we will have to make some tough choices in the weeks and months ahead over the level of services we deliver.

“We will however continue to provide the core services that keep Westminster clean and safe and protect the vulnerable and we’ll have an absolute focus on value for money to deliver more for less for local taxpayers.”

The final budget will be agreed at a council meeting on March 2.