Campaigners fury over “local tax” on benefits

CAMPAIGNERS against proposed changes in benefits for vulnerable people in West Sussex are furious about a new “local tax” on benefits.

Barry Pickthall, press officer for the Don’t Cut Us Out campaign, said: “Disabled people across West Sussex have received a letter from West Sussex County Council, advising them that, from April 10, their contribution towards social care and housing will rise to 100 per cent of their disposable income.

“For many, this local tax on their benefits will increase by £7 to £10 per week, wiping out what little money they have to spend on themselves.”

Mr Pickthall said the letter referred to a public consultation.

But Lynda Vowles, general manager at the Ferring Country Centre, said: “We know nothing of this consultation period and the letters received by some clients were a complete surprise to us.

“We have been in partnership with West Sussex County Council for nearly 25 years; you would expect them to discuss, or at least inform.”

Mr Pickthall said this “latest grab against the most vulnerable” had come hard on the heels of the withdrawal of council benefits and care support to 4,500 elderly and those with learning disabilities judged to have only “moderate’ needs”.

He added: “Councillor Peter Catchpole, the cabinet member responsible for adult services, has cut over £6million from social care funding and day centre budgets.

“He expects a £1m ‘band aid’ will be a suitable panacea for the voiceless vulnerable he intends to cut off from their care support and throw out from their day centres and sheltered work placements.

“Who is he kidding?

“Certainly not the voluntary and community sectors he is expecting to pick up the pieces. He has slashed their budgets, too.”