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Lib Dem amendment to County budget passed

February 19, 2017 5:11 PM

Martin VyeOn Thursday the 9th of February the Liberal Democrats on Kent County Council succeeded in making a change in the County Council budget.

Martin Vye, Canterbury county councillor and Liberal Democrat spokesperson on the county council, said: "The Conservative administration presented the budget, said 'It can't be changed now, take it or leave it'. But we looked at the figures very carefully. There was no way, given the cuts the Government have inflicted on local government, that we could make a big difference in the money for education or social services. But we found a way to re-route half a million pounds to a service that will make a big difference to our most vulnerable fellow-residents."

Martin proposed that this £500,000 be put back into the Kent Support Service. This used to be called the Social Fund, and had been set up by the then Government precisely because there will always be situations where individuals and families, through no faultof their own, find themselves without the money to pay for the real essentials: housing, heating , and food. This was passed down to local councils - but then suddenly Government took away the funding of it. So gradually the county council has cut its own budget for the Service.

Martin said: "Each year for the last three years the Service has been receiving 10,000 applications from Kent residents - and have given vouchers for food, for electricity , for washing-machines, and other vital equipment. Reading the applications bring it home what desperate lives some people are forced to lead.

Two examples; a mother and child fled domestic abuse, were given accommodation in January, moved in, but had no more furniture than one mattress and a microwave. Our Service enabled her to feed herself and child, have a fridge and beds, and access to electricity. A Father, looking for work, had his two daughters suddenly placed in his care by court, as they had suffered from domestic abuse at the separated mother's house, he had only his own Jobseekers Allowance as there was a long delay in accessing other benefits - nowhere near enough to look after the children. Our Service provided vouchers for food and access to heating and lighting for the father and his children."
The Kent Support Service is the main provider of emergency support for vulnerable people in Kent. Yet its funding was being whittled down year on year. The Liberal Democrat proposal which gained the votes of all but one member of the Council means that the Service can continue that support.

Martin concluded: "The need for emergency support is growing. Employment Support Assistance is being cut - and if you go on to Universal Credit, being rolled out by the Government, you will have to wait 40 to 60 days before you receive any money - and how then are you supposed to pay for food or heating? Of course there are benefits cheats, and they should be sanctioned. But to think - as the Government seems to think - that everyone applying for benefits is suspect is total nonsense. Just look at the real lives of the decent people whom the Kent Support and Assistance Service is helping."

MARTIN VYE The Dacha, Patrixbourne Road, Bridge CT4 5BL 01227 831820 07815 766468