Stroud District Council Red Zone Debacle

14/11/2016

It has become more apparent, in recent meetings, where Stroud District Council expects to replenish most of its lost revenue in the current fiscal year – Sheltered Residents within our community.
 
Cost Saving Point 1
Over the last 2 years we have seen the loss of 60% of very important on-site Housing Officers, who used to act as an intermediary between the vulnerable, disabled and elderly residents, and the support services. The on-site Housing Officers were able to keep a watchful eye over all sheltered residents so they wouldn’t become isolated, falling into a dementia spiral and providing help with the stresses of coming out of hospital. This cost saving exercise amounted to just over £300,000, which was made even more ludicrous, by the expense of a similar amount, by employing site staff. Their responsibility is to the bricks and mortar with little or NO interest in the well-being of residents. Sometimes the losses to the community cannot be measured by money alone.
 
Cost Saving Point 2
One of the most annoying elements of being a sheltered resident is the Service Charge. Paying for Sheltered Housing Officers had many benefits to the residents, but since the change to Site Wardens this cost should be down to the council: this ‘service’ was still charged to the residents along with other so called ‘services’. The elderly residents are directly paying for services where nothing is mandatory even when services are withheld, not applicable or not available; just recently a list of how the service charges are made up, one element was tripled. That particular item was staff cost, which has already stated above, now don’t look after the needs of the residents.
 
Cost Saving Point 3
At recent council meetings, it was quickly established that the council had entered into contracts on behalf of the sheltered residents; these were either unwanted or unnecessary.

For example: One contract has meant the reduction in their best staff, especially were repairs are concerned. Since the new contract had come into effect, repairs are now being carried out to a very poor standard with constant revisits to correct fault; thus elevating the cost. Recent repair issues have resulted in ludicrous decisions being made, including: the closure of toilet facilities in the communal areas, heating systems being faulty and keys to necessary areas being retained by council staff – residents have reported their own property being locked away as well (Keys being retained by off-site staff instead). Another example of an unnecessary contact is the NEW call monitoring service. At a cost of £120,000 per annum to the council it is a duplication of a perfectly good and preferred system, already installed. This has resulted in the residents relying on each other for support within their own sites, as there is no alternative!
 
Cost Saving Point 4
At present, current waiting lists for Sheltered Housing within the Stroud area stand at approximately 3,500. Couple this with the value of the land, eventually to be sold off by the council, of £4m; add to that the planning revenue and this figure doubles to £8m – how does this help the social housing within the Stroud area with the reduction in the number of shelter houses available?
 
We’re sure that the cost savings measure listed above are only a small fraction of what’s to come. The council is constantly trying to recoup lost revenue by reducing services, including those in the shelter housing community, but why is it always the elderly, vulnerable and disabled always affected first?
 
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Regards
Stuart Merrick
(SAVED Trustee)