Wednesday, 5 September 2012

New user fee charges imposed by KCC examined by cross-party group

From Cllr Jenny Matterface

The cross-party group set up by the Overview and Scrutiny Panel met for the first time on Monday evening, September 3rd.  Its brief was to examine the impact of the new user fee charges being imposed by KCC .

Cllr. Graham Gibbens,  KCC Cabinet member for adult social care and two KCC officers were invited to attend along with Thanet’s county councillors, users and other representatives.

Cllr. Kay Dark was elected Chair for the meeting and invited Cllr. Gibbens to speak to the group. He talked about the consultation that had taken place prior to the setting up of the charging structure but there was some confusion between his account and that of Mr. Thomas Sam from KCC who told us the consultation had run over 6 weeks but there were two meetings held in Thanet on different dates. Cllr. Gibbens only referred to one in Margate but there was another meeting later at Northdown House although no-one else present could recall such an event. Perhaps it wasn’t widely-publicised.

It was clear from the questions put by the group members that neither Cllr. Gibbens nor the officers were able to give us the answers we needed. They were asked about the number of users but the only figure they could quote was for the county-wide use. We asked about the charges e.g. who had imposed these? How were they decided? How many paid the full £40 per day? How many paid nothing? How many paid on a sliding scale? We were given percentages but no actual figures. To be told 10% pay the full charges is a meaningless figure unless we know if that is 2 people or 20.

Following some robust questioning from the group members other county councillors spoke followed by Cllrs Driver and Worrow and three members of the public who gave us the information we needed especially regarding the consultation process. Mrs. Godby talked about how important the centre is for her husband and many others and how users are being deterred from coming in as often as they need or would like due to the cost. Her husband gave a moving account how important it is to him to keep friendships going.

It is clear that the review group will need to meet again once we have written evidence from the relevant officers at KCC. To some a charge of a few £s per day may not be a significant amount but to many the charges imposed do mean the users cannot enjoy the facilities and vulnerable residents will lose the vital contact with others that keeps them involved in the community.

Cllr. King made an excellent comment about how unpaid carers should have their input valued and this reflected in the fees’ structure.

Committee members are Cllrs. Bruce, Cohen, Coleman-Cooke, Dark, King, Matterface

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