DON’T take a “meat cleaver” to these services - that was the despairing cry from campaigners as Worcestershire’s cuts to the vulnerable were laid out in full public glare.

During clashes at County Hall today more details emerged of £32m of savings to adult services, including:

- 191 jobs are at risk of the chop for people working with the elderly and vulnerable

- A charge of around £2 per week for residents using discretionary emergency call alarms

- The county council is scrapping its in-house aids and adaptions service and creating a joint one with district authorities

- Closure of two day centres for people with learning disabilities, the Matchborough Centre in Redditch and Offmore, in Kidderminster

The details, which have emerged in a key report, follow on from the first proposal to scale down at-home care visits for vulnerable people by giving them assistive technology instead.

The council’s Conservative leadership, which is battling with major budget pressures and needs to save £98m by 2017, has launched a major consultation over its changes to adults services, called Future Lives.

During a cabinet meeting a range of protestors lined up to urge the authority to do all it can to reverse some of the ideas.

Carer Ray Eades, of Stourport, who looks after his 44-year-old son with Downs Syndrome, said: “All of these changes are coming at the same time and are placing an intolerable burden on both carers and volunteers alike, without whose dedication and selflessness this council, or indeed any other could survive.”

Fellow carer David Johnson, of Bromgrove, who looks after a son with complex disabilities, said: “Future Lives really means miserable lives - people devoid of hope who are lonely, isolated and living a life of despair.”

During the debate speakers from a range of organisations also turned up to plead with the cabinet.

As your Worcester News revealed on Monday, the savings also include chopping £8.7m from a £15m yearly spend on bodies helping the homeless, deaf people and victims of domestic abuse.

The Supporting People budget provides Worcester Community Housing alone with £630,000, which goes towards a range of services for 1,505 vulnerable tenants.

Under the proposal, that entire grant will go next year. It funds wardens, call alarms, 24-hour monitoring and advice for those in poverty.

Other bodies await their fate but St Paul's Hostel in Worcester gets £500,000, and the Citizens Advice Bureau gets £250,000.

Jonathan Sutton, chief executive of St Paul’s Hostel, said he was preparing for the worst.

“Don’t reach for the meat cleaver when a scalpel will suffice,” he said.

Philip Gerrard, CEO of Deaf Direct, said: “The number of people with hearing loss will double by 2030, it’s a timebomb.”

The cabinet said they would be open to suggestions over alternative ideas, and voiced their frustration at having to make cuts.

Councillor Lucy Hodgson, cabinet member for localism and communities, said: “These really aren’t easy times - we are lobbying hard to persuade the Government we need a better deal, but we are where are.

“None of us likes to sit here doing what we’re doing - we do have to make difficult decisions.

"We do have to look at doing things differently and saying 'there are some things we don't have to do'.

"We are still spending 42 per cent of this council's budget on adult services and social care."

The Supporting People spend is a discretionary one.

A petition with 1,627 signatures was handed to the authority today over the closure of Matchborough in Redditch.

That proposal has already been consulted over and is agreed in principle, as long as officers are satisfied all the current users' needs can be met at other centres which are being re-organised.

In terms of the £2 weekly charge for call alarms, it will apply to people who are awarded one upon the council's discretion, rather than those eligible under the current criteria.

Bosses say that move alone will save around £769,000.

Of the jobs at risk, it is estimated at 43 in early prevention and 148 in older people's recovery services.

Peter Pinfield, from Healthwatch Worcestershire, a watchdog-style body, also turned up at the cabinet meeting, as did Brian Hunt, from the Worcestershire Pensioners Action Group.


THE leader of Worcestershire County Council today voiced his frustrations with the rival Labour group - saying he “never hears alternatives” from them.

Councillor Adrian Hardman, a Conservative, clashed with Labour group boss Coun Peter McDonald during heated exchanges.

Coun McDonald said the savings will “bring local government to its knees” and were “not something a civilised society would do”.

“These cuts fill me with horror - it will fall heavily on the most disadvantaged people who rely on these services,” he said.

“These proposals will bring local government to its knees in Worcestershire.”

But Coun Hardman said the real issue was Worcestershire being a “poorly funded local authority” with not enough cash to go round.

He snapped: “What I never, ever hear from the Labour group is what they would do differently given the choice.

“What would you actually do, other than this? We never hear it, well when we’re setting this budget you’ll get the chance.

“I totally reject accusations, which are always made by you, that we don’t care for the people of Worcestershire - we do care passionately.”

He later said “Worcestershire is a poorly funded local authority”, blasting the budget cuts as “much bigger than originally anticipated”.

"A burden has been placed upon us and we are finding that to be much bigger than we originally anticipated," he said.

"It's a particular challenge next year, when we need to save £30m.

"I am a firm believer in going out, standing in markets and town squares talking to residents because consultation with the public is absolutely key.

"Our engagement is sincere."

Despite the cuts, the current criteria for people needing adult social care in Worcestershire will not change.