Meals on Wheels cut U-turn

editorial image

CONTROVERSIAL plans to slash funding for the Meals on Wheels service in Bucks have been scrapped following protests.

A senior politician at County Hall admitted this week that the move, which had been mooted to save £200,000 in two years, would have had a big impact on the most needy.

The decision was announced on Monday, when Bucks County Council’s cabinet met to discuss plans to cut more than £20million from its budget.

It followed a call by a cross-party group not to cut Meals On Wheels.

Councillor Patricia Birchley, Conservative, said the service had been spared from savings following a review.

She told the meeting: “It’s perhaps the people in the most need who would have been most affected by this, so I believe it was a worthwhile study.”

Bosses also announced a U-turn on plans to slash £171,000 from its respite services by the end of the 2014/15 financial year.

Mrs Birchley said an equalities impact assessment had revealed the biggest losers would have been women aged between 45 and 64.

Mrs Birchley also revealed that people receiving home care would no longer have 15-minute appointments if their needs could not be met in that time.

Documents shown to leaders reveal that the council is set to invest £300,000 extra each year to increase the length of visits.

A scrutiny panel, chaired by former Bucks County Council leader David Shakespeare, had also called on leaders to plough an extra £95,000 into increasing the number of independent domestic violence advisors from two to four.

Papers released by County Hall state that the call had been accepted.

The council says that of the cost cutting measures being weighed up, 84 per cent is ‘service efficiencies’, while 10 per cent are classed as ‘service reductions’.

Among the savings being considered are £50,000 per year from reducing social care training, and £420,000 a year from open access youth provision.

Also in the firing line is the council’s substance misuse treatment service, which looks set to lose out on £13,000 over three years.

And County Hall is set to slash more than £1million over three years from its safer communities budget.

Financial plans set to be discussed by the full council later this month also include a £111,000 annual reduction in the support and promotion of young people’s achievements, and £153,000 over three years for the Youth Service activities budget.

The council is set to see the amount of cash it receives in government grants fall by 10.4 per cent in the next financial year, a reduction of £7.97m, confirmed by Parliament last week.