My column from this week’s Ham & High:
A room full of older people socialising, having lunch, talking and laughing – that’s what luncheon clubs and drop-in centres deliver for our older residents.
If it wasn’t for such facilities – some older people might never even get out of their homes and wouldn’t necessarily see another living soul from one week to the next. They might not eat properly. They might not get any exercise. And as many of those who use Abyssinia Court (near Crouch End) luncheon and drop club in Haringey told me when I visited last week – if it wasn’t for this haven of warmth and friendship – they would be depressed, would fall ill and become a much greater cost than the £425,000 per year that Haringey currently spends in total on all its luncheon clubs and drop-in centres. That is an amount which totals 0.2% of Haringey’s budget of £182million. Value for money – and then some!
The £425,000 cut proposed to drop-in centres, day centres and luncheon clubs is less than the annual cost to residents for the write off of the residents’ money that the Labour Council lost in the Icelandic bank collapse.
At Abyssinia Court which provides extra care housing, assisted living, close care, continuing care housing and is run by Hornsey Housing Trust – residents and locals alike drop into the community rooms for lunch and company. They also have access to other services that visit there. There is a hairdresser, a chair exercise teacher and other services like foot care. But it is the getting out of your room or your home, the company and good, healthy food – and of course bingo twice weekly – that mean that this expenditure is not only a vital lifeline – but an investment.
So – yes – it’s a time of austerity and yes the Government grants to local authorities mean that there will have to be cuts. However, where to cut is entirely at Labour Haringey’s discretion.
Haringey Council was banged to rights in a television interview with Lib Dem Minister Andrew Stunell (Department of Local Communities – the department who award local authority grants) last week. Mr Stunell made it crystal clear in the television interview that Haringey Council is receiving 5 times more for each resident than richer boroughs – because of the greater levels of need in the borough. (Not to mention that Haringey has the fifth highest council tax in London).
The cameras had gone into Willoughby Road luncheon club when it came to light that very first in line for local Labour cuts were Haringey’s luncheon clubs. They interviewed the elderly people there who rely on it – and they certainly made it clear how vital the club was to their well-being.
But what really gets me is that Haringey seem to be ducking the hard choices. For example – if you take their Communication and Policy budget of £6million – the cuts they are proposing to that is £124,000 – peanuts!
My Liberal Democrat councillor colleagues are studying the Labour Council’s budget proposals closely currently in draft. No doubt they will be mounting a ferocious challenge to save the soft targets whilst pointing the way to Haringey on where cuts could and should be made.
Without doubt – there are tough times ahead for local authorities and they will have to make cuts and not everything can be back office (although quite a lot can). But Haringey have muddled along for years. If Haringey could only do something once and do it right – that in itself would probably save a bomb.
Local government has to make savings, but it is up to the local authority where those savings rest. Haringey Labour are going for soft targets, but I believe this drastic cut to services for older people is a very poor decision. We should protect our most vulnerable not close services they cherish.
Labour’s financial mismanagement nationally got the country into this mess (together with the irresponsible banks and our individual live now pay later attitude) and locally Labour has made it much much worse.
Councils don’t have a free hand to choose where to cut – they are cutting everywhere because of the savage cut in Government money.
I see you are targeting staff in the Communications department for job cuts, do you never stop to think that many of the groups of local workers you have taken to routinely attacking in your blog will be your constituents who might well have expected their MP to stand up for them not sneer at them?
I have been so disappointed in you and have said so in this blog many times, but you have reached a new low.
You will never be able to justify your position as a tory minister by attacking the local council for its reaction to the massive cuts to for which you are personally responsible as a member of the government.
You have simply lost the mantle of the mp who fights for local people by being part of this regressive regime. You won’t get it back like this…
It’s very boring, I appreciate, to be saying the same thing again and again in blog comments. I just cannot understand what you LDs are doing. This is why you are failing in the polls…
Shame on you, Lynne, these are your cuts – yours as part of this regressive Tory government.
You’re also being totally disingenous because LibDem councils (as well as councils across the country) are having to do exactly the same thing.
Prior to your right-wing conversion, I admired you as a fine local and national MP with real credibility. Now you’re just a cruel Tory keen to grab as much as you can.
By the way, the mess we’re in is is mainly due to staggering 80’s-style unemployment with almost 3 million productive workers out of work – it’s an employment crisis. You should be turning the unemployed back into taxpayers with fair wages, not killing their jobs. This, if you used your own mind rather than regurgitating Tory spin would quickly pay down the debt.
Stop spouting uninformed rubbish – you don’t care about the old and the vulnerable because you scream otherwise with your callous and regressive reforms.
For your information, the other point to this so called deficit crisis is that roughly £80bn worth of tax is evaded and avoided by UK businesses and individuals.
It used to bother the LibDems, before they joined the Tories that is.
My heart really sinks reading this rubbish.The deficit is all, everything that isn’t the weathers fault is labours fault, councils have a choice where to cut and choose the most vulnerable, nothing to do with us guv’.
Haringey councils budget has been heavily cut by your government, the vast majority of spending is determined centrally and you know that even the most sensible efficiency savings will never cover the amount of money being cut in total. The council are far from perfect but they really have been left with very few choices here. It is also very clear that the government are hoping local councils will take the flak for unpopular cuts even though they are a direct result of central governments actions, ordinary people have already wised up to that one.
Having said all that, I do understand that you are extremely busy and have less time than before to post on here and debate with your electorate. This is a pity, maybe it would be less taxing to simply post the press releases from Millbank instead. We probably wouldn’t notice the difference and you wouldn’t have to waste valuable ministerial time dealing with us grouchy voters.
It is a very good place.
It is much better to eat with others than eat lonely.
Hypocrite – thy name is Lynne Featherstone.
Lynne, I have to really ask myself why did I vote for you? Your article is dishonest and disingenous. Cuts to services are happening in all councils, not just Labour Haringey and it is your party along with the vile Tories who are implementing them. And what happens when the NHS is privatised and someone decides the Whittington Hospital must close. Will you renegade on your word and promises again, or will you blame someone else?
Awesome posting, We are checking back again on a regular to find improvements.
People posting here seem to be under the delusion that Haringey Council was running smoothly before the coalition government came into power. In reality, it’s made a dog’s dinner of pretty much everything it’s touched, even before the cuts. Poor organisation, misplaced priorities and lack of accountability have messed up almost all areas the council has control over, from protecting vulnerable people, to protecting cultural heritage and conservation areas, to providing decent housing.
To those who talk about creating jobs I ask: Why isn’t Haringey Council doing anything to encourage business development? Wood Green High street is a disgusting mess, full of low-end chains and betting shops who care noting about the local community. Where are the small independent shops that could provide jobs for locals? They can’t afford the rent the shopfrontsa –mostly owned by the council.
There’s no evidence of delusion – except of course for Lynne’s delusion that she is still a good MP for the area. Of course people will have had problems with council services etc but I could also cite many instances of good service, just I could cite instances of poor service in the private sector. However, there is no delusion about the fact that an £87 million grant cut, with £47 million needed within the next few months is going to make things any better, for the people who will lose their jobs of the people who will lose their services.
RT @lfeatherstone: New post: The old and the vulnerable should not be first in line for Haringey’s cuts http://tinyurl.com/4u6xabj
Having just finished a project for sheltered housing I really would hate to see the older generation in the UK suffer at the hands of the government or local authority. We must not forget the contribution these people have had in the country, A lot of them said they felt invisible that must never happen. We will all be there one day.
Your government, your cuts.