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Friday, 8 January 2016

Ealing Council needs to support its most vulnerable

Over the past couple of years Ealing Council has made a number of decisions which have or will harm some of our most vulnerable residents.

Although Ealing Council has been given less money by the government in the past few years it still has control over hundreds of millions of pounds. So, Ealing Council can still make choices to protect both our front line services and those that are used by the disabled, those who are ill, the elderly and others in need.
Gary Malcolm being handed a
Council Tax Support petition 

Initially there were closures of a number of key day centres affecting many elderly users. Ealing Council tried to close the Solace Centre that helps users with mental health issues. Luckily for the users, the Council made a rare U-turn when a large borough wide campaign was set up to save the Solace Centre. The Liberal Democrats help to support the Solace Centre.

However at the same time the Carlton Road Day Centre was closed. The Day Centre was used by profoundly disabled and those users had to find alternative help which will either cost more, provide a lesser quality service or both. Shame on Labour for closing this day centre.

The latest problem that Labour-run Ealing Council is causing some residents is when they again reduced the Council Tax Support payments. Council Tax Support is a discount that helps people on low income to pay their council tax. The amount of support you get will depend on your circumstances and how much council tax you pay.

Currently there are about 26,000 claimants, and figures show that over 5000 claimants are in arrears already and over 3000 residents have summons against their name.

So Ealing Council know that these individuals are in financial difficulties but they are to not only make it worse for them, but also add many more residents who will need to pay. Not only is this mean and vicious but asking for additional money from someone who cannot pay is likely to yield little compared to what they anticipate the changes will bring.

But it gets worse than: Ealing Council will now be able to reduce the discount by another 5% in April 2017.

The Liberal Democrats in Ealing have been fighting to protect the services that the most needy in Ealing require, to have a satisfactory life. It is wrong of Labour-run Ealing Council to make these cuts which will leave the most deprived residents even deeper into poverty.

I thank the London based organisation Z2K, who supports vulnerable benefit claimants. They produced two joint reports with the Child Poverty Action Group which examined the impact of localised Council Tax Support in London. Their findings are stark and claimants in Ealing will become much more vulnerable in the future.

Hardship will become more common. This is a stain on Ealing Council’s reputation and a ‘kick in the teeth’ to some of our most vulnerable residents.

I had hoped that 2016 would have begun with better news, but sadly not.

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