A leading figure behind the new Midhurst and Petworth area day centre has challenged West Sussex County Council (WSCC) to justify stashing away millions of pounds in reserves while axing vital care services for vulnerable people.
The figures have been revealed by the Don’t Cut Us Out campaign in what it calls ‘a dossier of shame’.
Campaigners claim that, while cutting £31m from the adult services budget over three years, the county council has salted away a staggering £38m in reserves which now stand at a record £148m.
Margaret Guest is a member of the new Big Society group, Rother Valley Together, which has set up day-care facilities in Midhurst to replace services axed by the county council.
A former county council adults services officer, Mrs Guest is also a high-profile member of the Don’t Cut Us Out campaign.
She said: “We must surely challenge the council to justify its increasing of its reserves for a ‘rainy day’ when so many vulnerable people are experiencing the equivalent of a thunderstorm now.”
The loss of council services was particularly hard on people in the Midhurst and Petworth area where there was limited access to affordable transport and care services, she said.
The area was fortunate to have many voluntary groups and individuals taking up the reins: “However, many are now struggling to raise the required funds and to recruit the increasing number of volunteers needed to compensate for reductions in council services.”
This week the county council remained tight-lipped, accusing the Don’t Cut Us Out campaign of ‘chasing negative headlines by packaging up inaccurate outdated and misleading claims’.
And the Observer is challenging the council through a Freedom of Information request to specify the inaccuracies.
A spokesman for WSCC said: “Even when we point out inaccuracies in their claims they persist in repeating rather than rectifying them.
“We do not think it is in the interest of concerned vulnerable people or the public at large to continue to give them a platform.
“A detailed rebuttal of the claims, which seem to have been pulled together from a mish-mash of sources, would be time-consuming and not a good use of scarce council resources.”
The Observer wants to know: What are the inaccuracies? What is the actual level of ‘savings’ to the adult services budget obtained this year as a result of eligibility changes? What sum is currently held in county council reserves? Which council jobs are paid over £100,000 a year?