Opposition Call For Merton Budget Precept Towards Adult Social Care

Conservatives set up on-line petition calling for change

Opposition Councillors in Merton are calling for an amendment to the council's proposed budget to fund £1.355m to help fund Adult Social Care services in the borough.

The Labour-led council's Cabinet agreed on a controversial £5.06 million cuts package earlier this month, which will go for final decision at a full council meeting on March 2.

The Cabinet agreed to continue to freeze council tax - which was a manifesto pledge by Labour - and not use a 2% precept offered by the Government which would allow the council to raise £1.7m to spend on adult social care.

It means more than £1.8m will be cut from support packages to adults suffering from a range of issues, including the elderly. The Meal on Wheels service, now used by 175 people, faces cuts of £153,000. The Imagine Independence charity, which supports adults with mental health issues, faces £84,000 worth of cuts.

But it will be using the Government's New Homes Bonus to set up a £1.3m fund to continue to deliver some of the services that might otherwise have been cut.

However the Conservative, Merton Park Independent and Lib-Dem Councillors, are set to argue at the full council meeting for a 1.7% precept to raise a further £1.355m to fund support for some of the borough's most vulnerable adults.

They state this would not result in any increase in council tax as it would be directly offset by the reduction in the Mayor of London's component of the council tax. The Mayor's precept was being collected towards the funding of the 2012 Olympics, but it will stop in the next financial year.

The Conservative group have also started a 'Caring for Merton' petition to campaign for the 1.7% precept to be included in Merton's budget.

Councillor Oonagh Moulton, Leader of Merton Conservatives, said: “We are tabling this amendment because it is the right thing to do for the people of Merton. The most vulnerable in our community shouldn’t have to suffer.

“Merton Labour have failed to deliver over £5m of savings that they themselves previously agreed. Now they are choosing to cut frontline services for older and disabled residents rather than using the power given to them by government to clean up their mess."

And Merton Park Ward Independent Residents' Leader Councillor Peter Southgate said in a newsletter to local residents: "The 'Adult Social Care precept' if levied at 2% would bring in £1.535m for Merton, enough to save the services under threat – permanently, not just for next year.

"For a Band D council tax payer, that’s £22 a year. An overwhelming 92% of those who responded to our recent survey (88 people) said they would be willing to pay this provided it was spent on adult care. 
"In practice the increase would be much less, because the GLA is proposing to reduce its precept by £19 for a Band D home – a net increase of just £3. Hardly anyone would resent paying this, but we understand it is important for the Labour administration to keep its manifesto pledge not to increase council tax during the life of this council.

"That’s why the Merton Park Independents, supported by their Lib Dem colleague, will be introducing an amendment to the budget to levy the ASC precept at the slightly lower rate of 1.7%. This will bring in £1.35m for adult care – at no increase in cost to the council tax payer.
"We hope all Merton councillors will see the sense of this proposal and support it at the budget council meeting on March 2 but we fear party politics may get in the way."

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February 23, 2016