Concern Over ‘Savage’ Care Cash Cuts

Thousands of Wirral people who depend on social services funding will suffer because of “savage” cuts of over £4m, according to a councillor. Amid ever-growing demands on the service, there are fresh fears for the borough’s future as the cash-strapped council is forced to concentrate resources on those with the most severe needs.

Wirral already has a higher than average older population but the trend is predicted to continue with an extra 2,500 people in the 65-plus age group by 2010, and a rise of 1,100 people in the 85-plus group. In addition, there will be an extra 315 people with learning disabilities who will need support from social services by 2010.

But local Tories claim government cash is failing to keep up, and councillors are calling for more money to be fed back into Wirral’s “starved” social services provision. Conservative councillor Chris Blakeley launched a scathing attack against local Labour members who he has accused of depriving millions of pounds from the elderly, vulnerable and the poor. He said: “Labour are proposing cuts of £4.1m to adult social services for 2007/08 by cutting depart-mental care packages, continuing health care, agency staff, domiciliary care, older people’s residential care, and of course introducing higher non-residential care charges.”

Labour’s socical services chief accused Cllr Blakely of misunderstanding the facts but agreed the service should have more central funding. Liberal Democrat councillor Jean Quinn is spearheading a debate to full council next week to discuss how the care needs of older people will be met in the future.

She is also urging members to put pressure on the government to recognise the urgency of the situation and increase funding. “Despite the best efforts of the council, the government has starved social care of investment for far too long,” she said. “Additional investment in the NHS has not been mirrored in social care. This is very worrying for an area like Wirral. We simply can’t ask our older people and Wirral’s council tax payers to keep paying more.”

But Labour councillor Moira McLaughlin, cabinet member for adult social services, said that the growing trend was due to people living longer and is an issue that needs to be addressed. “I support the spirit of the Liberal Democrats’ motion in asking for more money from the government as there is no doubt that we are under-funded, not just here but around the country. Because of this, council members are always lobbying for more funding with the support of local MPs who also recognise that we don’t have the resources to match the borough’s needs.”

She added: “It’s a well-known fact that we are struggling to cope with the demand and so we have to raise charges to make sure we cut spending and not service. We are doing this to make our money go further because we are not getting sufficient funding from government.”