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Bonkers Blog February 2011

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3 February - Penny pinching Hurts the vulnerable

One of this week’s news stories is that the council is looking for yet more cuts to cover a shortfall in the government’s grant to Bexley. How much extra they are looking to save is unclear as yet but health, adult social care and children’s services are all in the firing line again. Times are hard, no one would deny that but the council fat cats are steadfastly refusing to shoulder any of the burden themselves. Last October the council Leader put out a story for the benefit of newspaper headlines that she was thinking of reducing the number of councillors but didn’t mention the idea at all at the November meeting to discuss the cuts. She won’t talk about reducing councillor’s generous allowances at all and believes the staff on well above the Prime Minister’s salary “deserve it” and “are worth it”.

Councillors’ allowances add up to almost £900,000 a year, salaries of the fattest cats another £2 million or so. If Leader O’Neill had been serious about her proposal to reduce councillor numbers by a third and imposed a modest reduction in allowances, half a million would be saved. Modest salary reductions, not the draconian ones being imposed on care home wardens, would push the savings towards a full million. But no; it’s the vulnerable who must suffer again.

An example of this is councillor David Hurt’s proposals for health and social care. His ideas are unfortunately too jargon-ridden to be clear but he speaks of using “helpful technology” as part of a “new prevention model”. If this is restricted to the wearing of a pendant which includes an emergency button then one must wonder why it hasn’t been in use before now, but presumably it goes beyond that. My experience of the very elderly is that they tend to hate anything that relies on a plethora of buttons and I hope councillor Hurt accounts fully for their requirements. The omens are not good because among his proposals is for “adult transport services and (their) closer integration with Bexley Care Trust” and “to outsource our adult transport service to an outside provider. This will provide a service focused more closely on the needs of customers, as well as generating a financial saving”. Presumably councillor David Hurt does not read the News Shopper because if he did he would know that some transport services are already outsourced and things are not going well.

A recent episode involved a patient at Queen Mary’s with a 9.30 a.m. appointment for chemotherapy whose transport arrived to collect her at 6.45 a.m. for the ten minute journey. If it was not for the intervention of a neighbour who drove the old lady to Q.M.H. she would have missed her chance of life-saving treatment and the hospital would have incurred the extra costs of another appointment. But it doesn’t matter because some bean-counter in an office has saved a few pounds for his own organisation to the detriment of someone’s health and extra costs for a hospital. If the fat cats weren’t so greedy some of these cuts would not be necessary.


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