THE leader of Worcestershire County Council has rejected claims that slashing £8.5 million from services for the vulnerable will lead to legal challenges - saying he has little "hard evidence" it worked.

Councillor Adrian Hardman has refuted criticism the authority is adopting a "chop it and hope" approach to slashing 60 per cent of its Supporting People funding.

As your Worcester News first revealed in November, a £15 million pot is being reduced to £6.5 million in April due to major funding pressures.

It goes on a range of services including domestic abuse, substance misuse and debt advice, 24-hour wardens for pensioners in sheltered accommodation, call alarms for the disabled and homelessness support.

On Wednesday the council came under fire from a range of housing associations which get grants from the £15 million kitty, with Festival Housing saying it could lead to a judicial review.

But Coun Hardman said evidence the funding was helping people can be disputed.

He said: "Supporting People was a very badly designed New Labour grant scheme which had very little rationale around how it was distributed around the country.

"We had no 'bench-marking' systems so we could get details on what outcomes it helped deliver and how that compared nationally, nothing at all.

"It actually ceased to exist in 2010 and since then this council has been able to keep it going, but I think it's entirely right that we review it.

"Reforming a prevention system with the financial constraints we face will always take time but we have been open with people all the way along.

"We've always said 'if you have evidence where this spending has worked, tell us about it'.

"What we have had is a lot of interesting case studies, but we're struggling to find hard evidence where it has saved us cash."

His stance is directly opposed by the county's main housing providers and other bodies that get the cash, like Worcester Citizen's Advice Bureau.

Many of the critics say the spending is preventing vulnerable people, including the elderly or disabled, from being "institutionalised" by having to go into care instead.

There are also fears if more people become eligible for statutory care because of it, removing the funding could cost taxpayers more.

Clare Huyton, from Festival Housing, said: "We've got 917 people who get some sort of help from this funding.

"There is a risk of a judicial review."