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'Rhetoric, spleen and bile' - county councillor hits back at criticism over care cost changes

PUBLISHED: 15:08 05 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:08 05 March 2019

Bill Borrett, chairman of Norfolk County Council's adult social care committee. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Bill Borrett, chairman of Norfolk County Council's adult social care committee. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Norfolk Conservatives

The decision by Conservative-controlled Norfolk County Council to increase care costs for thousands of vulnerable people has come in for fresh criticism - because more cash has been kept in reserves than expected.

Brian Watkins, Liberal Democrat county councillor for Eaton. Pic: Liberal Democrats.Brian Watkins, Liberal Democrat county councillor for Eaton. Pic: Liberal Democrats.

When the council set its budget last month, it included changes to the authority’s social care changing policy, to save the authority £4m.

It changed the minimum income guarantee, used by the council to assess how much people aged 18 to 64 pay towards their care. And a benefit - the enhanced element of personal independence payments - is now taken into account when assessing care,

The combined effects mean about 1,000 people are paying more for care and 1,400 people are paying for care for the first time.

Parents of children with learning disabilities had criticised the move and both Labour and the Liberal Democrats had proposed budget amendments to use money from reserves to postpone the changes. Both were defeated.

But, at a meeting of the council’s adult social care committee this week, it emerged the money due to be drawn from the adult social care department’s reserves has been reduced by £5.1m, from the planned £6.8m to £1.7m.

Lib Dem county councillor Brian Watkins, having referenced the minimum income guarantee changes, said: “We have learned about how we are spending £5.1m less than reserves than last year.

“I appreciate the need to be financially responsible, but we are talking about a service which is making more than half the council’s overall cuts.

“We are putting some of this money into the bank, rather than doing more to mitigate some of the harshest effects this is having on vulnerable people.”

Mr Watkins went on to question how some Conservative councillors could live with that decision on their consciences and said: “It adds to this council’s reputation for being punitive and uncaring.”

But Conservative committee chairman Bill Borrett accused Mr Watkins of “rhetoric, spleen and bile”. He said the adult social care budget had not gone down and more was being invested in prevention than ever before.

And he said using money from reserves was not a solution. He said: “That’s not income, it’s one-off money. You cannot spend it again and again. If you spend it you will have nothing left.”

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