Friday 23 January 2009

Cameron Turns A Blind Eye As H&F Conservatives Add £547 To Meals On Wheels Bills – The Cruellest Stealth Tax Of All

Interviewed in this week’s Gazette, Dawn Stephenson, director of Age Concern Hammersmith and Fulham, tells how H&F Conservatives’ £547 hike in meals on wheels charges is likely to have devastating consequences. She told Rebecca Kent “You hear about elderly people who die in their homes, but no-one visits them for weeks. That daily contact is really, really critical and if the service is reduced or cut altogether that would be just tragic”.

This is the third year in a row that prices for meals on wheels have risen – bringing the total increases to 60 per cent during that period.

On 20th March 2007, I actually wrote to David Cameron MP, the Leader of the Conservative Party, to alert him to the controversy of our local Tory Administration targeting this vulnerable group of people. In my letter, I explained “As you know, meals-on-wheels are provided to some of the poorest elderly and disabled people in our community. Many people believe that it is wrong to ask these people to pay so much more to eat.” Cameron didn’t even bother to reply.

But that was year one. In this year's 2009/10 budget our Conservatives have added another £182 to meals on wheels to bills bringing the total hikes to £547 since 2007. It therefore seems that, at the very least, Mr. Cameron has been content to look the other way while this attack on Hammersmith and Fulham’s elderly, sick and disabled residents is allowed to continue.

There are three aspects to the Tories’ cuts to the meals on wheels service:
  1. The new and highly dubious practice of telephoning elderly residents up and interviewing them to see if they still qualify for the service. Readers will recall the anxiety of one family when the Council cancelled the service for a 79 year old lady who suffers from dementia following such an interview, as reported here.
  2. Hiking prices up in the hope that this tax will encourage the numbers of users to drop off and stop using the service.
  3. Force people to switch to microwave food deliveries instead.

Back in 2007, I asked a senior finance official what rationale lay behind this new approach. She said that “the Administration wants to make more money from this service”. The Council has a £185m budget and this cut will save £100k. I wrote to H&F Conservatives and suggested that I’d be happy to advise them where else they could make this saving instead. They wrote back to say they were “happy with the increases”.

H&F Council’s Tory Administration spends millions of pounds on propaganda and other wasteful follies. I think most reasonable people will think that it would be better to cut back the press operation, or shut down H&F Council’s PRAVDA styled spin-sheet instead of hiking up these charges.

If you or anyone you know is affected by this cut, please email me here and I will do all I can to help.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I got the paper and there is another story on page 3. It involves a private e-mail Cllr Loveday to Greenhalgh. It is about a residents groups newsletter amd Loveday goes on about how "we [Tories] have shifted the agenda" and how they were a "difficult residents group" "hostile and always prickly" and he finished it with "We are winning". Sparking accusations of manipulating residents. Greenhalgh in his joy sent it to the council communications team. Does this mean the councils communication team is an extension of Tory propaganda? Well, someone in the communications team seems to have leaked the e-mail. Good for them!
Greenhalgh reckons he was just letting the communications team keep abreast of issues in the letter -since when did he care what residents think!
What is interesting is the Gazette comes out on Friday. On the councils message of the day for staff on Friday was a warning with a picture of someone in prison that "Inappropriate use of [council IT] could result in disciplinary action and in some circumstances criminal prosecutions." Looks like the Tories dont like people spilling the beans.