It would have been easy for Hammersmith and Fulham to achieve a cut in the Council Tax by cutting grants to voluntary groups. This was not the approach we chose to take. In my borough the amount we have spent on the voluntary sector has increased overall despite our cutting the Council Tax each year. When we took over we reviewed which groups were getting funding and some, such as Law Centres, had cuts. We also reduced the numbers administering the grants. But we also gave new groups a chance and we increased total funding has from £4,192.233 to £4,276.077 and have continued to increase it since. This year it is £4,480, 299.
Yet a reportin The Guardian this morning suggest the Council Tax cuts are financed by a "squeeze" on the voluntary sector. I think the use of the word "squeeze" is clever. It implies the money has gone down but is a term compatible with the amount of money going up – albeit by less than the writer would have liked. The Labour MP Andrew Slaughter is quoted expressing indignation. He has got a nerve. When he was Council leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council he cut the spending on this by 10% in just one year from £4,452, 009 in 2002/03 down to £4,025,989 in 2003/04. Faced with a budget out of control and bureaucracy at the Town Hall expanding he took it out on the poor and vulnerable by slashing spending to the voluntary sector. Now he poses as their champion. What a fraud.
The Guardian also suggests our Council Tax cuts were based on Home Care charges. They say we are charging £12.40 an hour charge to 600 of our 1,800 home care users. It's actually £10.50. But there is a wider point: Is it just for a Home Care user with a high income to have the service provided free or subsidised at the expense of a Council Taxpayer on a low income?
Here are some details of our excellent record for adult social care services:
Adult social care
- Helping those in moderate need: We are one of eight London authorities (25 nationally) to offer support to the "upper moderate band of need."
- Home care charging: Held at £10.50 an hour currently. The maximum charge could have been £12.40 which is cost to the council even that is well below average charge for London (£13.30). Only one council in London and four in the country do not charge for home care. Out of 78,000 households around 1750 to 1800 people receive home care and only 340 people have been invoiced for home care. Only those who can afford to do so are asked to make this contribution to the cost of their care (they must have income 25% above income support levels).
- Meals on wheels: The demand for the this service is down from 600 service users in 2002 to 320 in 2008. The proposed price for H&F hot delivered meals is £3:80. This is still below many other councils.
- Occupational therapy: No waiting list over past three years; waiting times for adaptations reduced from 1 year to 3.5 months and £150,000 saving.
- Procurement: 70% of adult social care spend with independent suppliers; smart commissioning and procurement to reduce costs and improve satisfaction.
- Sheltered housing: The Government’s Supporting People Grant is being cut from £14 million down to £11 million. There are 17500 elderly people in Hammersmith & Fulham and around 1400 in sheltered housing. By recommissioning the housing related support services the council will ensure that sheltered housing landlords provide enhanced housing management services. Supported housing funding levels for the elderly will be maintained and services will also be extended to the
elderly that are not currently in sheltered housing via floating support services across all tenures.