State pension set to rise by 2.5 per cent next year

Pensioners will benefit from a 2.5 per cent increase in their state pension thanks to the Liberal Democrat Triple Lock guarantee.

Figures out today (14 October) show that inflation is below target meaning that the basic state pension will be boosted by 2.5 per cent next year.

The Triple Lock guarantee means that pensions will increase with inflation, earnings or 2.5 per cent – whichever is highest.

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Commenting on the inflation figures, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander said:

“This below target inflation number is good news for everyone, but will help pensioners in particular as the Liberal Democrat flagship ‘Triple Lock’ policy will kick in to give an above inflation pension increase.

“The Triple Lock delivers a pension rise of whichever is the greater of average earnings, inflation or 2.5%.

“This means that next year the basic state pension will rise by 2.5% or £2.85 a week.  With Liberal Democrats in Government the basic state pension has risen by over £950.

“This shows that pensioners are at the heart of our Liberal Democrat vision of a stronger economy and a fairer society.

“They’ve done their bit for society and paid their dues over a lifetime. Our Triple Lock policy ensures our country does right by them.

“This is in stark contrast to life under the Conservatives who broke the link between pensions and earnings in the Thatcher years, and life under Labour when pensioners were insulted with rises as low as 75p.”

Williams & Alexander force charity workers resignation

We understand that David Smith, the man at the centre of the anonymous tweets controversy, has now resigned from his post as head of a York mental health charity.

His decision came shortly after the local newspaper reported complaints by Westfield Labour Councillor Dafydd Williams.

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It is understood that Williams and Labour Councillor Leader James Alexander had written to senior executives and trustees as the Charity demanding that they take action against the worker.

It has also emerged that none of the comments made under the pseudonym “Jack Ham” on The Press website were in any way abusive.

The losers will be those suffering from mental health problems in the City who may have had renewed hoped following the announcement, at the Liberal Democrat conference yesterday that their illness would have a greater priority for health resources in the future.

A period of uncertainty is certainly not what is required.

The Press and the Labour Leadership need to take a long hard look at themselves and how they have handled this issue.

More revelations on withdrawal of meals service for elderly

The York Council has admitted-  in a response to a Freedom of Information request – that it did not formally consult on ending the mid day meal service at its sheltered accommodation units.

 

Gale Farm Court Affected by meals decision

Gale Farm Court Affected by meals decision

Instead any discussions centred around the quality of the meal on offer.

The cut was implemented on 1st October.

The Council has also blamed officials for the decision to end the meals service which it is intended will save £50,000 a year.

They say that the Labour Cabinet approved the budget cut but implementation was delegated to council officials.

The FOI response can be read by clicking here

Liberal Democrats are pressing for the meals service to be restored and have pointed to the £30,000 a year being spent on the empty Oliver House home as one source of alternative funding.

If the Liberal Democrats win the Westfield by election it is also likely that the number of £20,000 a year Cabinet posts will be reduced from the present level of eight.

 

Labour go ahead with threat to end meals for elderly

Lunch off menu at Gale Farm Court

Westfield Residents have lost out again from cavalier council.

Meals at sheltered housing in Gale Farm Court were axed by the council on 1st October despite protests by residents that the council had not given time for alternatives to be worked through.

Gale Farm Court

Gale Farm Court

Residents had been led to believe that the council was sorting out a better contract for the meals – but on 3rd September a letter was sent by the council to say that the meals were being stopped on 1st October

Residents do not have kitchens – indeed residents took on their flats on the understanding that they would have communal meal arrangements.

The letter had followed months of consultation where residents were led to believe that the council was simply sorting out a better provider- following complaints about the quality and unreliability of orders. The Council leader James Alexander had been approached in February at the “Westfield Community Conversation” event and had claimed that he wanted to sort the problem out!

Andrew Waller has been working with residents and companies who want to provide a service which means that residents don’t need to eat in isolation in their own flats. On behalf of the residents he wrote to Cabinet Councillor Lindsey Cunningham Cross to request that the old system continued until there had been a new one developed – in response she said that she would not comment on whether the scheme would or would not cease on 1st October…. until the 16th October.

Residents found out the hard way that the council was not going to budge.

Some taster sessions have been run by companies who want to bid for the work, but these have taken place after the council had stopped the communal meals. Andrew will be pressing with residents that a sustainable solution is brought forward.

Andrew said “The treatment of the residents of Gale Farm Court has been shocking. The axing of the service came out of the blue, and it seemed like the council had already written off the prospect of a replacement even before they sent out the letters at the beginning of September. I know that Cllr Lynn Jeffries had been working with the residents for months to get better meals.

Residents in council sheltered schemes deserve to be treated with respect by the council. They should have worked to provide a new solution before axing the old. It seems that the council is saying that it is trying to tackle social isolation in the area .. but actually does the opposite in practise. I am pleased that the residents have not taken this lying down, and have been pressing for a solution that they are able to choose a solution”.

Anorther high profile officer quits York Council

City of York Council has announced that Paul Edmondson-Jones, the Director of Health and Wellbeing, is leaving the council today in order to pursue opportunities and interests elsewhere.

A Council media release says, “Paul joined the council in 2013 as Director of Public Health to support the transfer of this new statutory service back to the council, at a time of significant change across the health sector.

Paul also took on responsibility for Adult Social Care. Working for the local authority and with the NHS and wider partners, Paul has lead on the responsibility for promoting and protecting health and wellbeing, tackling health inequalities and improving health care quality in the city”.

The Council’s social care programme has been hit by delayed projects, controversial plans to cut meals services for some elderly people as well as major budget overspends.

Recently auditors criticised the Council for failing to provide “value for money“.

The responsible Labour Councillor (Simpson-Laing) was sacked earlier in the year but her inexperienced successor seems to be even more out of her depth, as problems escalate.

Labour Council first to fail ‘value for money’ test

External auditors have offered only a “qualified” judgement on Labour run York Council’s 2013/14 accounts due to failings in adult social care.

Lowfields care village - 3 years behind schedule

Lowfields care village – 3 years behind schedule

At last night’s meeting of the council’s Audit & Governance Committee it was confirmed that auditors Mazars would only offer a “qualified” judgement on the council’s accounts, specifically their ‘Value for Money’ assessment.

A report presented to the committee said there were “weaknesses in budgetary control and financial management in Adult Social Care services….a lack of understanding and ownership of budgets….and performance information was limited”.

It said “during 2013/14 the service did not demonstrate an ability to address the issues that it faced” and financial arrangements in place were “not strong enough”.

The final announcement comes in the wake of serious delays in a  number of social care projects.

Key amongst these are plans to construct a state of the art centre on the Lowfields school site which would have made the service more efficient.

The project is 3 years behind scheduled and Labour Councillors have refused to reveal why, although no formal contract for the facility has yet been advertised for tender.

Cllr Nigel Ayre, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health and a member of the Audit & Governance Committee, commented:

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Council still spending £30,000 a year on empty elderly persons home

Call to reallocate money to save mid day meals for elderly

Oliver House York

Oliver House – the former old people’s home in Bishophill – is still standing empty.

It has now been empty for 30 months following the closure of the home in April 2012.

A sale would mean that, not only will the Council no longer be responsible for the £30,000 annual maintenance and rates costs, but a substantial capital receipt of over £500,000 could be expected.

In December 2013, the Council finally decided to put the property on the market. With the recession easing it was expected that the prime site would quickly be snapped up by housing developers.

However we understand that it could be another month before offers are finally invited.

Meanwhile the Councils decision to cease the mid day meal services for residents living in some of its sheltered housing units continues to attract criticism.

The council says that it needs to save £50,000 a year on the service.

It seems that it has a ready solution to its budget problems.

However, prompt action is now needed.

Bid to help senior citizens who are set to lose lunches

Gale Farm Court residents offered hope by Andrew Waller

Gale Farm Court

Gale Farm Court

Andrew Waller has stepped into the controversy surrounding Labours decision to stop lunch time meals at Gale Farm Court.

Andrew is trying to involve local cafes and the library in providing an alternative service.

He comments

“Residents have asked for the quality of their meals to be improved so that there was a greater take-up and costs could be controlled. Some even raised that issue with the council leader in the Community Conversation on 13th February.

Little did they know that by raising dissatisfaction with the quality of their meals that this would result in the council axing the service”

Numbers taking the meals at Gale Farm Court had dwindled due to poor perceived quality and value for money from the current provider, with some residents often getting different food to what they had offered. Some residents have not had a choice to cook for themselves due to their personal circumstances, and this is a huge let down for them.

Meeting together for meals was an effective way to reduce isolation which has been highlighted as a problem in the local area by a number of agencies including the Joseph Rowntree Trust.

Attempts had been made through Acomb Alive! to engage with local Acomb cafes and restaurants to provide alternatives which were more popular – there was a trial on 13th July with a local provider which was well supported by residents.

The expectation was that this was going to be developed to provide a range of meals which better met resident’s demands, with support for local businesses being a mutual support.

Instead there may now be too little time to sort this out which is very disappointing.

A more open process should have been adopted from the beginning and yet again residents are left feeling that decisions are being made behind closed doors forced as a result of the poor spending controls of the current council”.

York Council cuts meals for elderly

Lunch off menu at Gale Farm Court, Barstow House etc

Elderly

The Council is stopping  serving of lunch for residents in its sheltered accommodation units.

Potentially all sheltered units are affected and letters have gone out today to affected tenants.

Although the Council claims to have consulted about the planned withdrawal of the service, in reality most residents thought they were being told about changes to how the meals would be provided.

The termination of the service therefore comes as a shock.

It is partly a legacy of the social care budget scandal that became public earlier in the year.

The Cabinet member with responsibility for the service lost her job at that time but now it seems that vulnerable elderly people are the ones who will suffer.

The social side of the mid day meal is particularly valued by many residents of sheltered accommodation who otherwise can become isolated in their own flats.Behind closed doors logo

The decision appears to have been taken behind closed door. There was no public discussion about the options available to the Council and affected residents.

Earlier in the year concerns were raised about hygiene standards at some care homes in York

Sheltered units with extra care  in York include (click for details)

  1. Barstow House
  2. Gale Farm Court
  3. Glen Lodge
  4. Marjorie Waite Court