Council proposals are a callous attack on vulnerable

The lack of self-awareness displayed by Louise Goldsmith (Chichester Observer, last week) is astonishing, even for a West Sussex Tory councillor.

Does she truly expect West Sussex residents to feel sorry for her?

The announcement of proposals by her council to abolish the ‘Supporting People’ fund, which makes a significant contribution to the running of all the housing-related support services provided by charities and voluntary organisations, is a callous attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our county.

The Local Assistance Network will also be reduced by three quarters, with serious implications for those councils and housing associations in West Sussex who provide elderly sheltered housing and extra care services.

Since the removal in its entirety by the Tory-led coalition government in 2011 of a ring-fenced grant, the county council has continued to fund these services from its base budget.

The council has now decided to consider abolishing virtually the entire £6 million fund for ‘Supporting People’ because it is not a minimum statutory obligation.

The devastating consequences of this move will be felt county-wide, and Chichester-based organisations will suffer, most prominently Stonepillow.

This organisation provides such a valuable service in our district that it simply beggars belief that the Tories are considering putting it at risk.

The dedication of the staff deserves to be better rewarded than this shabby treatment.

Even more important is the threat of increasing homelessness in the district (and, indeed, the county) that this shameless manoeuvre will bring about.

For a relatively small price, as opposed to the costs that will undoubtedly accrue if these services aren’t there, particularly to the health service and the police, our most desperately in need residents will be cast out onto the streets.

It is deeply immoral, and the consequences will be felt by the whole community.

This short-sighted policy will inevitably mean that the county council will end up having to pay the consequences later when these vulnerable people require services that the council are statutorily required to provide; therefore, most of the savings are likely to be lost quite quickly.

In the meantime, Chichester Labour fears that these cuts will trigger an epidemic of homelessness.

This is likely to mean increased levels of rough sleeping in town centres, public places and open spaces, and street begging at levels unprecedented in West Sussex.

We urge residents to contact their local county councillor to express concern at this cold-hearted move by West Sussex Tories.

Kevin Hughes, City branch chairChichester Labour Party, Theatre Lane, Chichester