Liberal Democrat Councillors have strongly criticised Conservative-run Surrey County Council for agreeing to hike adult social care charges by over £1m for disabled and vulnerable residents. The new charges, due to take effect from 3rd October 2016, have been pushed through by the Conservative-run Council, despite a consultation which showed strong opposition to the plans by residents and disability groups.
Previously, Surrey residents in receipt of Personal Independence Payments, Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance had the first £27.20 of their benefit disregarded when the Council was calculating their income. From October, the full amount of their benefit will be taken into account - which means that Surrey County Council will be billing disabled residents for an extra £1m. The increase in charges follows the deepening crisis for Adult Social Care services in the county and the failure of the Conservatives at County Hall to come to grips with a spiralling budget and years of overspends.
In June this year, the cross-party Social Care Services Board heard evidence from the Surrey Coalition of Disabled People and Action for Carers, who both strongly opposed the changes. The Board went on to criticise the proposals noting that there was "strong resistance to the proposed changes, and concerns about the detrimental impact on disabled people, their carers and families given the reduction in disposable income". And in July, the Conservative Cabinet was presented with the results from the consultation which showed that 61% of respondents "disagreed or disagreed strongly" with the proposal. This follows on from another recent consultation where the Council ignored the views of residents - the unpopular "Tory Tip Tax" - a charge local people have to pay to use their local Community Recycling Centre.
Cllr Fiona White, Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats on Social Care said: "In just a few weeks time, our Conservative-run County Council will start charging an extra one million pounds from 700 of our most vulnerable residents. How on earth can they justify spending millions of pounds on buying property outside of Surrey, whilst pushing through a proposal that will cause real hardship to disabled people? One of the most important aspects of our role as Councillors is to protect vulnerable and disabled residents, and help improve the quality of their lives. These proposals are anathema to that and it is appalling that these plans have been given the nod by the Conservatives - they should hang their heads in shame.