Cutting income for adults receiving arranged care from West Sussex County Council would be ‘disgraceful’ and ‘mean spirited’, according to opposition members.
The Tory-led authority is considering a number of options to plug a massive budget gap in future years.
One of these is to cut the level of Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) for working age adults who receive county council arranged care to the statutory minimum.
The MIG, which is governed by legislation, ensures that those who pay a means-tested contribution towards the cost of care have enough money left over to cover day-to-day living costs.
The proposed changes would mean single people in receipt of care would be charged an extra £275 a year and £420 per annum for those who are part of a couple.
Around 1,700 people in West Sussex are expected to be affected, although the county council has emphasised no final decision has been made.
James Walsh, leader of the Lib Dem opposition group at County Hall, said: “This is a disgraceful extra tax on some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in West Sussex. It flies directly in the face of the much vaunted claim in the Conservative-led council policy of ‘looking after the elderly and most vulnerable in our communities’, and as such is hypocrisy.”
He pointed out how this proposed cut was a result of Government austerity policies and suggested only political change at County Hall and Westminster would change anything.
Meanwhile Labour said the changes would disproportionately hit those in work with learning difficulties, physical and sensory impairment and mental health issues.
Labour county councillor Michael Jones said: “This is such a mean-spirited move. The Tory leadership in West Sussex is threatening to take this money every week from people, for the cost of their care and support, that they currently have to spend on their own living expenses.
“It seems particularly cruel because all these residents affected are earning their money, and having to overcome adversity, to go out and do an honest day’s work.
“We aren’t talking major sums, but the individuals and couples affected are already on very low incomes. Once more this Tory leadership is clawing money back from those who have virtually nothing, to make their savings.”
He argued the whole point the MIG was not set at the statutory minimum in West Sussex was because the county has a cost of living well above the national average.
Sue Mullins, leader of the Labour group, added: “This is yet another example of West Sussex County Council attacking the most vulnerable residents in the community. Residents who have little, or no voice, or influence, over decisions being taken, which fundamentally affect their lives and standard of living.”
According to officers the proposals would save the council £300,000 a year.
They are due to be discussed by members of the West Sussex Health and Adult Social Care Committee tomorrow (Thursday September 27).
A spokesman for the county council said: “Local authorities across the country are having to make really difficult decisions about how to spend their ever decreasing finances and West Sussex is no exception.
“Up until now, West Sussex County Council has set its Minimum Income Guarantee above the statutory minimum set by the government. In view of our financial situation we can no longer afford this concession and the proposal is to reduce the level to the statutory minimum in line with other councils.
“It’s important to stress that no decisions have been taken on the proposed change and the county council will engage with those people who could be directly affected by this decision and the wider community prior to a final decision being taken.”
According to an officers’ report: “The council will consult with customers who will be impacted by this decision and welcomes views from the wider community and has established a generic mailbox to receive individual or community comments. This mailbox is Minimum.Income.Guarantee@westsussex.gov.uk.”