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HONITON: Impact of cuts ‘destroying’ community

Wednesday, 23 July 2014


FEAR FOR FUTURE OF PUBLIC SERVICES

Honiton residents are fearful that the combined impact of cutbacks in public service provision currently facing the town could have a damaging and long-lasting effect, a special report by Pulman’s View has revealed. As this newspaper has reported in recent months, cash-strapped public bodies have been forced to look for savings and efficiencies to best manage dwindling budgets. And their cost-cutting focus is affecting services across every aspect of public life, including: l Day care services – Day services for older people at the St Michael’s Day Centre will be stopped in phases, with the potential for services to be provided through alternative local facilities; l Youth services – A recommendation to close Honiton’s youth centre has been approved, with the nearest ‘youth hub’ facilities to be based in Exmouth; l Community hospital beds – A service review on the provision of community hospital in-patient beds across East Devon is underway and a decision is expected in November and health bosses have given strong indications that the number of beds will be cut; l Library services – A consultation on the future of Honiton’s library ended this week and the facility is likely to be converted into a multi-functional ‘Devon Centre’ - it is not yet clear which services will be retained; l Children’s Centre services – A consultation on the future of children’s centres across Devon has now closed and proposals are being drawn up, with the county council specifying its intention to reduce the number of children’s centre buildings, focusing resources on the most deprived areas; l Police Station front desk provision – Devon and Cornwall Police has confirmed its intention to close the enquiry point at Honiton Police Station and the proposals are due to be implemented, subject to a consultation ending this month (the nearest enquiry desk will be based in Exeter). Devon County Council, which operates many of the services under threat, last month issued an all-party plea to Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles to put a stop to the cuts. And if no further action is taken, the council’s annual budget will have been slashed by a third over an eight-year period. In a letter to Mr Pickles, the county’s political leaders said that further cuts to front-line services would affect “vulnerable sectors of Devon’s population”. Each announcement has been met with concern by Honiton residents, who have fought on a number of fronts to keep public services intact. But the cumulative impact of the cost cutting is now being felt and there is anger that community facilities are being ripped away from local people across all sections of society. Tony Simpson, a spokesperson for Honiton Senior Voice, said older residents were facing a “double whammy” of problems, with cuts to key services mounted on top of falling incomes. He told Pulman’s View: “Vulnerable older people are feeling the impact of the rising costs of home care services, which is not keeping pace with their income. “Those who are losing St Michael’s Day Centre feel very angry and helpless – they cannot understand why this is happening.” The planned closure of St Michael’s sparked public outcry when proposals were first announced earlier this year, and councillors carried a petition containing hundreds of signatures to County Hall in Exeter. The TRIP community transport association has joined Honiton Senior Voice in vocalising its concerns for carers like Jackie Wadsworth, who is now preparing to look after her elderly mother for an extra four days a week. Mrs Wadsworth already provides care for her husband, who suffers from COPD emphezema, which causes breathing difficulties. She said: “My mother is coming up to her 92nd year and she has nowhere to go – her only bit of life has been going to the day centre. We simply do not know what is going to happen or when. “It is not fair on her – she does not just lose the care, she loses the friendship and the company.” There is particular concern that the most vulnerable in the community are bearing the brunt of budget cutbacks, with Honiton’s younger residents, as well as its senior citizens, facing the loss of key services. Honiton Town Council’s ‘Youth Champion’ Henry Brown said services were interlinked and one decision after another could have a “snowball” effect on the lives of Honiton’s young people. He added: “The town is already lacking in resources for young people and they are being offered very little to do outside of school hours. “This is affecting not only young people going out and being active, but also their social capacity – and that is when the problems start to snowball. “There are various mechanisms for young people to access advice and facilities, but they are being cut off and the repercussions of that could be quite severe.” Anxious members of the local community are working to find ways of maintaining services in line for cuts, and Honiton Community College has initiated discussions to ensure the survival of the youth centre building. But many residents are facing major changes to their daily lives that could have a lasting effect. And Caroline Kolek, the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for the Honiton and Tiverton constituency, said the “shameful” decisions being taken were “destroying the community.” She added: “We are the only county in Europe where the brunt of the burden of the deficit has been placed upon welfare and social cuts. “This one-club policy has so far resulted in the loss of funding for the youth centre, the loss of funding for St Michael’s and now potentially the loss of funding for our hospital. “If you ever thought these cuts would not affect you, they are doing so now.” Details on many of the changes to public services and ongoing consultations can be found at www. toughchoices.co.uk

Email: jack@pemedia.co.uk

All content © of Pulmans Weekly News unless stated otherwise.



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