Thursday, 3 February 2011

Featherstone: Beyond Hypocritical

I was staggered to read Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone’s assertion last week in the Ham and High that ‘we should protect our most vulnerable’ and that, locally, ‘the drastic cut to service for older people is a very poor decision’.

Why was I staggered? Because Ms. Featherstone, as a Government minister, is in part responsible for the drastic and unfair cuts to public spending, the impact of which we are only beginning to see. The cuts will dismantle the welfare state, send inequality sky-rocketing and hit the poorest and most vulnerable hardest. A cabinet of millionaires (and that includes my own MP) have decided that libraries, healthcare, education funding, voluntary services, sports, the environment, the disabled, the poor and the elderly must pay the price for the recklessness of the rich.

The National Pensioners’ Convention reported on the ways in which the Comprehensive Spending Review would impact on pensioners. Amongst other findings, it highlighted that:

- The Winter Fuel Allowance is to be reduced in 2011 from £250 to £200 for households under 80, and from £400 to £300 for the over 80s.
- Funding for the £280m Warm Front programme will be cut over the next 2 years to £110m in 2011-12 to £100m to 2012-13.
- The money for adult social care will not be ring-fenced, leading to concerns that cash-strapped councils will use it for other services.
- Local councils will have their funding cut by 27% over the next 4 years. This is likely to affect all non-statutory services, some of which, such as day care centres and meals on wheels are vital to many older people.

This, of course, is exactly what is happening in Haringey, with Abyssinia Court in Stroud Green being threatened. I visited the centre in 2008 in my role of Green Party candidate for the area, and was impressed by the staff, the atmosphere and the facilities.

That Ms. Featherstone would criticise the council for cutting services when they have had their budget slashed by the Government in which she is a minister smacks not only of a shameless hypocrisy, but it is also deeply patronising to the voters of her constituency. She herself will know that the constituents of Hornsey and Wood Green are diverse, informed and engaged, and unlikely to be fooled by such hypocritical statements.

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