Concern that families will suffer from service cuts

PUBLISHED: 14:00 30 November 2006 | UPDATED: 13:39 04 May 2010

COUNTY finance chiefs, desperately trying to balance their books, look set to hit families coping with disabled relatives as they prepare to cut their care packages. They are planning to slash £40,000 from respite care - the service which allows families

COUNTY finance chiefs, desperately trying to balance their books, look set to hit families coping with disabled relatives as they prepare to cut their care packages.

They are planning to slash £40,000 from respite care - the service which allows families a much-needed break from caring for the severely disabled.

The move will reduce care to a maximum of 22 nights per year, and council chiefs are expecting to be hit by complaints from families who will struggle to cope with even less help from social services.

In exceptional circumstances, they say, an application can be made to pay for extra nights.

The cuts are just part of a £2.8 million package of savings from environment and community services, including £1.3 million cuts to support services for vulnerable adults and almost £1 million from children and young people's services.

More than £500,000 looks set to be cut from the road maintenance budget and there are £95,000 worth of savings on the county's library book fund with a further £5,000 reduction to the mobile library services.

Even with the harsh cuts, and a projected five per cent rise in Council Tax, Cambridgeshire County Council will still be overspending on services by £1.76 million with a further deficit of £1.5 million from trading services, such as school meals.

Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr Julian Huppert, said: "I am disappointed it has taken the county council so long to come clean about the nature of these cuts. Cuts to children's services, cuts to adult social care, cuts to roads maintenance and to libraries - all this will hurt the more vulnerable people in our county particularly hard.

"To make matters even worse, because most of the cuts are one-off items, this just means that the county will have to find even more cuts next year, and in future years. It will take a long time to pay off the overspends the council's cabinet has racked up every year over the last few years."

But Cambridgeshire County Council leader, Cllr Keith Walters, said: "We are stuck between a rock and a hard place with low grant aid from the Government and the Council Tax capped and more and more people entitled to benefit from council care in Cambridgeshire.

"We could raise the eligibility criteria for services and say people can't get help from us unless they are critical and that would solve our financial problems overnight.

"I am aware of at least one other county doing that. But we are not prepared to at this stage. So we need to sold the problem without taking that massive step.

"The Council Tax is going to be raised by around five per cent no matter what we do. With that in place, service areas should be given top priority. Libraries came out as pretty low priority in a public survey we did with adult care, schools and education being the most important areas.

"If you take money out of the book fund, and it is no less than it was last year, that is relatively painless."

The spending cuts will be put before the county council's cabinet members on December 5 and for a final decision by full council on December 12.

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