The council have published the results of their consultation on sheltered housing in Barnet, and recommendations for its future. Their report shows they have decided to ignore the result of the consultation and to proceed to axe sheltered housing wardens.
The options to be considered by the Cabinet when it meets on Monday 8 June are:
(1) cut £950,000 from services for the elderly by getting rid of sheltered housing wardens and means testing the alarm service in sheltered housing schemes;
(2) cut £600,000 from services for the elderly by operating a reduced wardens service and means testing the alarm service;
(3) cut £400,000 fron services for the elderly by getting rid of sheltered housing wardens and retaining the alarm service for all;
(4) don't cut services for the elderly and leave the current set-up in sheltered housing alone.
The option that those who wrote the report recommend to the Cabinet is (3). When the cuts were first proposed it was £950,000 that seemed most likely. Some people might be tempted to think that this represents some sort of climbdown by the council. Perhaps they have responded to the overwhelming feeling against the proposed cuts; looking at the proposals it seems more likely that they have worked out that unless everyone uses it, the alarm scheme becomes non-viable. In that case, what we are left with is what they wanted to do all along: axe the wardens. This seems more and more mean-minded when you realise that the budget saving will be £400,000, and not even this year, as they have to give six months' notice to the organisations providing the sheltered housing schemes.
This Tory administration has learned nothing from the consultation, which showed overwhelming support for the wardens and a firm belief that they enhance people's quality of life and help them to live independently for longer than would otherwise be possible. Wardens prevent bad things from happening to elderly people, whereas the alarm system is only there to deal with the aftermath of an accident or emergency.
I urge everyone to read the report, particularly those sections detailing the consultation, which are very poignant. More than that, rouse yourself to come to the lobby of the Cabinet meeting on 8 June. We will gather at 6pm outside Barnet House, Whetstone for the lobby, and go into the public gallery at 7pm for the meeting itself.
Beyond the 8th what can we do? We know that there are more cuts in the pipeline in the next few years. With regard to sheltered housing, a sum of about £400,000 has been allocated to an interim 'floating' support service to substitute for the loss of the wardens: how long will that sum be safe, at the hands of this council, that can always invent a justification for any cut it wants to make? If they won't defend us, we will have to defend ourselves!