ARC charges row continues

Dumfries and Galloway Council have come under fire from the Labour group over alleged ‘final reminder’ demands for payment from users of the regions Activity Resource centres, despite the charges being suspended last month.

They now what a meeting with head of Social Work John Alexander to discuss the latest development.

But the Council say the Labour group have not checked their facts and are trying to score political points. Labour’s Social Work spokesman David McKie said: “Another week, another shambolic chapter in the council’s ARC charges fiasco. You couldn’t make this sort of incompetence up. The council is sending out final demand letters for ARC charges, even though they are suspended. The letter from the council warns that ARC users may face ‘further recovery procedures’ unless they pay up. This is causing serious distress to some of the most vulnerable people in our region who are worried about the consequences.

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown, who earlier this month submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the Council to seek answers on how the charge was brought in, added: “ARC charges were slipped in by the backdoor and have been one blunder after another. First there was the error in the original report and then the incorrect claim that no one had so far paid ARC charges. Now it has emerged that final demand letters have been sent out even though the charge is suspended. The whole thing is a mess and the council is all over the place. Councillors and ARC users have been misled time and again. We need the truth, which is why I have submitted a Freedom of Information request demanding that all the details are released into the open.”

Council leader Ivor Hyslop said: “Their actions are highly irresponsible and may be viewed as making cheap political points and further raising anxiety within a very vulnerable group of people.

“If Labour had taken the trouble to check the facts, as I have done, they could have avoided making these misleading public comments.

“They should apologise now for their actions in this regard.

“Having checked with the director of social work, I can confirm that the collection of all charges attributed to ARC services was suspended following the decision taken at full council on June 28.

“If people are receiving other services and have the financial ability to contribute to the costs of those services, these contributions will continue to be collected by the council in accordance with its agreed charging policy.

“That is what has happened in this instance.”