While Salford Council continues to throw money at prestige projects like MediaCityUK, Chapel Street and the Salford City Stadium, those in the city who really need support are getting financially hammered.
The Council recently introduced a Blue Badge charge of £10 for disabled drivers, and now those who rely on its Passenger Transport Unit to attend day centres will be hit with a £3.50 a day charge - despite the users themselves telling Salford Council during consultations that they won't be able to afford it.
A Salford Council Adult Services Report recommending the new charge states that 350 people use the Transport Unit, and estimates that the scheme will be worth £123,000 in new income. That works out at over £350 a year per person using the buses, or £29 per month or over £7 a week.
The record of the Council decision to introduce the charge, published yesterday, states that the option of "Not charging as people felt they could not afford the charge" was rejected. The document adds: "It is felt that some people may not use the transport because of affordability".
The Humphrey Booth centre in Broughton has already closed down and been moved to Ordsall, meaning longer journeys for many. This latest financial burden could well leave people who rely on Salford's day care centres for both physical and emotional support even more isolated.
The Council decision states that "hardship reviews could be agreed in special circumstances".
The new charges come into force on 23rd November.
The Salford Star asked Salford Council…
* Is it fair to increase the financial burden on old and ill people?
* Is this going to stop people using the service and thus become more
"The new charging system for transport services involves people using their personal budgets to pay for the services they want" replied Councillor John Warmisham, Lead Member for Adult Services "That way, people who use the transport system will pay for it but those who don't can spend their personal budgets on the services they do use.
"Before introducing the new charges we did consult with our service users, offering them a range of options" he added "A fixed rate charging scheme was the preferred option as it was clear and easy to use."
* Since last Friday the Salford Star has been trying to obtain documents from Salford Council on which the decision to introduce the transport charges were made, including the consultation results to which Councillor Warmisham refers.
The documents are supposed to be `available for public inspection' but nothing has been forthcoming, apart from the non-answer to Salford Star's questions by Councillor Warmisham.
At the last count, five Salford Council officers (including Sue Lightup, the Council's Director of Community, Health and Social Care) plus the Leader of Salford Council (John Merry) and the Lead Member for Adult Services (John Warmisham) were involved in e-mails flying about as we asked `What on earth is the problem in letting us see reports which are supposed to be available for public inspection?'
The latest communiqué from the Council was from Sue Lightup, the Director of Community, Health and Social Care, sent at 10:41pm on Monday night, apologising for the delay… "We are in the process of getting the documents for you…We should have this concluded by tomorrow"
Hmmm. It's now Wednesday and still nothing. But how long does it take to e-mail over a few reports? The Salford Star can only conclude that Salford Council has got something to hide – maybe the bit of the consultation where people were saying they couldn't afford the new charges. Perhaps?
UPDATE 21st NOVEMBER - Click here