Blaenau Gwent's Labour leaders cut OAP funding after slamming move in opposition
12:40pm Thursday 10th January 2013 in News
LABOUR councillors have pulled the plug on funding for a “vital” disability service – despite launching a scathing attack on the previous independent administration when they tried to do the same thing.
In April 2011 the Argus reported the plight of Blaenau Gwent Council for the Disable. It faced being shut down by a £12,000 cut in its funding.
The then opposition councillors Hedley McCarthy , Steve Thomas and Keith Hayden criticised Independents for creating new portfolio positions for councillors, costing more than £13,000 a year, when they were cutting services.
Less than two years on, and just eight months into power, those very councillors voted yesterday to axe £13,500 from its £33,000-ayear grant.
Hedley McCarthy, now council leader, and deputy leader Steve Thomas say circumstances now are different, as they are being forced to make cuts across many sectors.
Cllr Thomas said: “The situation in 2010 and 2011 was a very different one to the one we are in today. We were so opposed to the Independent’s proposals because they were suggesting we expand certain portfolios by cutting back on this service.
“With us, as with almost every local authority in the country, we are having to make cuts across the board. The Welsh Government has announced the Local Transport Services Grant is to be reduced by 17 per cent, which is why we are having to make these cuts.
“They are regrettable, but they are what we must do to try and strike a balance to ensure all our services are provided for.”
The BGCD has helped hundreds of disabled people in Blaenau Gwent for almost 30 years. Every week members meet at the Arosfa day centre in Blaina to have lunch, play games, sing songs and hold raffles.
Hilda Barwell, 82, has been secretary of the BGCD for more than 31 years.
She said: “Weare all very upset by it. A lot of us are old or disabled and a few months ago they told us they want us to move out of our building.
“Old people often worry that they are unwanted. This just confirms that belief. I don’t know what we are going to do.”
‘Lifeblood of our community’
IN 2011, LABOUR councillors were very outspoken about how losing the Blaenau Gwent Council for the Disabled would be catastrophic.
Cllr Keith Hayden vowed to campaign against the cuts, with Cllr Hedley McCarthy saying: “Groups like this are the lifeblood of our community.“To think that it is more important to fund extra positions for councillors, rather than the work of this crucial group, beggars belief.
“It is time the so-called independents came to their senses.”
Cllr Thomas called for savings to be made in other areas because of the important work of the group.