Lib Dems oppose Conservative pay rise for Guildford Councillors

February 20, 2008 3:25 PM

money going down a drainThe Liberal Democrats are opposing Conservative plans to close the Riverside Centre in order to fund a pay rise for councillors.

The Conservative-run council have chosen to withdraw the grant to the Riverside Centre, which is run by Age Concern Surrey. A short time ago, they voted to give councillors an overall increase in their allowances of 21%, when that money could be better spent on keeping the Riverside Centre open. The amount of money involved is almost identical.

The Conservatives are also proposing cutbacks in the way in which lunch clubs are provided for older people and the staffing levels at Dray Court and Japonica Court, which house some of the more frail older people.

Lib Dem Group Leader Fiona White [Lib Dem - Westborough] says: "At a time when local authority money is very tight, we think it is wrong that the Conservatives voted themselves a huge increase, which we opposed at the time, while cutting services and asking staff to show restraint in pay rises".

The Riverside Centre is more than just a café: there is also a computer drop-in, a footcare clinic, bingo, events and outings. It is also the place where the gardening service run by Age Concern Surrey is based.

It is a fact that many older people can become isolated which can have an adverse effect on their physical and mental health. Going to the lunch clubs means that they get out and meet other people. It is essential that good, freshly prepared food continues to be served at the lunch clubs to persuade people that it is worth making the effort to go there.

Councillor Wendy May [Lib Dem - Stoughton] says: "There is a very real risk that if these schemes change to a meals on wheels type service that it will be all too easy for those people who have mobility problems or perhaps are feeling emotionally low on a particular day to decide to take their meal in their own homes therefore isolating them further and there is a risk of this becoming an all too easy option for them."

The proposal that onsite staffing at Dray Court and Japonica Court should end at 5pm instead of 10pm is very worrying. The people who live in these Courts are those who need a higher level of support to continue to live independently without going into residential care. There is a lot of difference between that support ending at 10pm, when many people are thinking of going to bed, and staff leaving at 5pm which is still early in the evening while residents are still very active.

Councillor Tony Phillips [Lib Dem - Onslow] says: "Dray Court is within my ward and I am not happy with the suggestion that we should reduce the support we provide to people who have often worked to keep their independence all their lives".

The Borough Council spends huge amounts of money on outside consultants and we believe that it would be a better use of some of that money to keep to the current provision for lunch clubs and staffing. Again, our proposal would not increase the overall impact to Guildford's council taxpayers.

Taken together, we believe that these cuts are unfairly targeted at older people who are often unable to fight for themselves. We are determined to oppose the cuts and keep the services at their present level.