Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Cuts consultations

The county council is holding a cuts roadshow in different parts of the county. Yesterday it was the turn of Newcastle Emlyn, although thanks to very poor publicity, hardly anyone turned up.

The council team came armed with banners and stacks of questionnaires and booklets explaining what the exercise is all about. The team itself was made up of Chris Moore, the council's Head of Financial Services,  Cllr Jane Tremlett, Executive Member responsible for Social Care and Health, and for some reason a representative from the council's press office. But perish the thought that this is a PR exercise.

The three VIP visitors were squeezed into a broom cupboard in the town's library, which has probably also been ear-marked for closure.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the exercise is that while lots of work has gone into producing questionnaires and glossy brochures outlining very broad proposals for people to comment on, almost no detail is available.

For example, the council is proposing that one area of savings would be to start charging for school transport for children aged 16+. If you are a parent, there are a number of questions you might want to ask.

  • Will the charge apply to all children once they have reached their 16th birthday? If so, that will hit a good many children in the year running up to their GCSEs.
  • Will the charge be based on mileage, or will it be a flat fee?
  • What happens if you have two or even three children who are aged 16+?
  • Will there be means testing to ensure that families who really cannot find the money are not hit and forced to take children out of school? And if so, what would be the cost of means testing?
Mr Moore and Cllr Tremlett do not have the answers, as it seems that these little details have not been worked out yet. But they would like you to put a tick in a box saying whether you agree or disagree anyway.

Cllr Tremlett's brief includes residential care for the elderly. Which homes is the council planning to close? She does not know.

The council is very keen on independent living because that saves lots of money on residential care. So is it a good idea to ramp up charges for home care services? And can she really guarantee that transferring home care services to private operators will make no difference to people who receive the service despite saving £1.5 million a year? And what difference will it make to council staff currently employed as home carers when they are transferred to the tender mercies of the profit-driven private operators?

Anyone who has read the council's very glossy annual reports will know that we are apparently all healthier, happier and better off than before thanks to Carmarthenshire County Council, and healthy living is something which County Hall is very keen to tell us about.

You might wonder, for example, how plans to hive off playing fields and ramp up charges for using council sports facilities contributes to healthy living. You might also wonder how cutbacks at leisure centres is healthy living. Or how will the health and fitness of children be helped when schools are told to find money they don't have to pay to use the leisure centres which were built purposely alongside them? Especially when those schools lack gyms and other sports facilities precisely because they were built alongside leisure centres?

You might like to ask these questions and more when the roadshow comes to a place near you (assuming that you know it is happening), but it is unlikely that Mrs Tremlett or anyone else from County Hall will be able to give you an answer.

So just put a tick in the box, and make them happy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How preposterous but unsurprising that CCC have come up with proposals with no thought,plan or strategy. Excellent blog Cneifiwr and some good pertinent questions!!!

For those who wish to challenge CCC and their VIP's on the proposals, the venue, dates and times of the roadshow are below. p.s. tell the press office Cneifiwr sent you and his PR bill is to follow:-

. Thursday 28th November, 2.30-7pm, Llanelli Library
• Tuesday 3rd December, 12-6pm, Ammanford Library
• Wednesday 4th December, 10-2pm, Carmarthen Library
• Friday 6th December, 10-1pm, Llandeilo Library

To access the budget proposal document, simply copy the link below and paste it into a search engine such as google.