Pleas to stop cuts to services for elderly and young at north Norfolk meeting

Pleas to save services for the elderly and young were at the heart of a meeting called for people to raise concerns about government and local council proposed cuts.

The meeting, which took place in Sheringham on Friday night, was called by the newly-formed campaign group North Norfolk Against the Cuts, who in December last year, drew up a petition calling for north Norfolk MP Lamb to resign.

Group member Andy Cairns said at the time voters were angry at Mr Lamb's decision to go back on his pledge and vote for an increase in student tuition fees, and because he had campaigned in the general election saying that a vote for him would keep out the Tories.

At the meeting on Friday night people were given the chance to raise their concerns and question Mr Lamb about the cuts.

At times it became heated, with Mr Lamb complaining to the organisers about the time constraints and not being able to fully respond to people when they asked questions.

Some people also walked out, beliving the meeting was not being chaired fairly.

Three speakers at the event made their case, outlining the cuts they faced and how the would impact their lives, with Tom Hollick, vice-president of the student union at City College Norwich explaining the uncertainties students were facing with the rising of tuition fees and the possible scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance and the post-16 transport subsidy.

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Margaret Craske, a trustee of Age UK North Norfolk, said: 'I am particularly concerned about the services for the elderly. Grants have been cut and for many months social services have been unable to make any firm decisions, nor can they tell us what the future holds.

'Everything that we and the many others like us do, keep people independent and free from anxiety, and saves money for the NHS, we keep people out of hospital.

'I ask Norman Lamb, what are you and your colleagues doing to stop this fear and paralysing uncertainty that is spreading throughout the sector. I also ask, will you fight for those of us who need your support, as you did when you were in opposition?'

Jenny Lawes, 64, cares for her 98-year-old mother, and has a 40-year-old son Mark Howard, who has learning difficulties and goes to Holt Day Centre.

She said: 'The day care centre is my son's whole life, it is all he talks about. He would be devastated if it closed.

'Without the day care centre I could not cope, it is my respite.

'Norman Lamb has been patient and sympathetic and listened to us, and he has helped us, but what we would like now is for him to support us in keeping the day centre open.'

Concerns were also raised from one member of the audience about the scrapping of the Agricultural Workers Wages Board, which works to set wages and conditions for agricultural workers.

Mr Lamb said: 'I did not come into politics motivated to cut things, but every week in this country the deficit is going up by �3 billion.

'We are in a situation in this country where our finances are in a very dire situation.

'I believe it is in the progressive interests of this country, that we sort out public finances so that we can get back on our feet.

'We have to look at how we can redesign things to get more for less, we also need to cut out bureaucracy.'

He added that he agreed with Mr Hollick that the post-16 transport subsidy should not be cut, and that he had said as much to the county council. Speaking about his decision to back the tuition fees, he added: 'I will defend that decision, the system that is being introduced is more progressive. For the poorest 25pc of graduates they will pay less than they are doing now for their education.'

He said he had implored the county council not to cut preventative care for people which he says would be 'counter-productive', and he said he was lending his support to keep Holt Day Care Centre open.

Responding to accusations that the government should be targeting tax evaders, Mr Lamb said the coalition government was spending an extra �900 million over the spending review period of four years to chase those avoiding tax.

A public meeting was also held at the Feathers Hotel in Holt on Friday to answer questions and make comments on the many changes to services the county council is looking at.

One question was the future of the Holt Day Centre. James Bullion, the deputy director of adult social services at the council, said they are not closing the centre in April 2012 but will seek another agency or association to take it over. NCC will support financially the centre and lay down requirements for it's running.

Other subjects discussed were highway matters, particularly services which in future may be carried out by towns or parish councils, again with support from the county council.