Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Boris Johnson's advisor axed hot meals on wheels

Boris Johnson's local government advisor implemented a series of cuts in his borough, culminating in the axing of hot meals on wheels for old and vulnerable people.

Before he stepped down as the head of Bexley Council, Ian Clement told pensioners that they would no longer receive their meals on wheels service but should instead order frozen food from 'approved suppliers' on the internet.

Meals on wheels, which were pioneered in London during the Blitz, and have since spread across the world, were axed according to Clement, as a means to "provide users with greater choice and offer an enhanced service." 

But unfortunately for Clement, angry pensioners failed to see how removing the option to have a hot meal delivered to their door was increasing their choice, or how forcing them to cook a meal that they were incapable of, was improving their service.

And as the protests grew, Clement was forced to make it clear that pensioners would be assessed for need and could claim an 'attendance allowance' to pay for the meals to be heated if necessary. 

But with many pensioners unable to access the internet, let alone submit themselves to the application process, Bexley council were accused of implementing cuts for cuts sakes.

Thirty council workers were also due to lose their jobs, and Bexley Council had shed themselves of a huge subsidy, but for the vulnerable pensioners whose daily visits from the meals on wheels van were often the only ones they had, Clement's decision was to have an even bigger impact.

Fantasy Land

Because when Boris Johnson came to power, he promised to give greater power and influence to individual boroughs, but the problem with giving that extra power away is that individual boroughs already make very self-interested and damaging decisions as it is. 

And without that central control over key social and housing policies, that Livingstone was so criticised for, people in one part of London will often suffer in ways that those in other parts avoid.

In his latest rallying cry against waste and 'politically correct London,' Andrew Gilligan wrote yesterday that when :

'the GLA's new cost-cutting chief executive, Tim Parker, starts work, we will see that second essential revolutionary moment: the part when selected victims are led out to the firing squad.'
He then goes on to say that under Boris money will be redirected away from 'cycling for the blind initiatives' and 'gay Bengali workplace sustainability forums' and will instead go towards helping the most deprived people in London. 

But beyond Andrew Gilligan's fantasy land where Notting Hill liberal Tories toss help to London's poor, lies the realities of a political party dedicated to cutting taxes and the services that go with them. 

And while Gilligan's eyes are turned, it is not gay Bengali cyclists, but the ordinary pensioners and vulnerable people of London who are often the first to be 'led out to the firing squad.'


Anonymous said...

Tories: at their best when they're nastiest. I guess this is how Boris plans to 'work with the boroughs' then. Work with the boroughs against the people. And he's found just the man for the job.

Doug said...

Oh, Ian Clement will fit in well at City Hall. He had a few u-turns of his own - he promised not to raise council tax by one penny, most prominently, and then raised it. Which didn't go down well in the local papers either...

Especially given that he still cut essential services to the bone.

The Tory Troll said...

Are you a Bexley man then Doug? Any extra background information on Clement would be useful considering what wide ranging powers he now has. Give us an email if there's anything that sticks out.

niff said...

On the topic of Tory cuts in Bexley, see also their recent shaving of library opening hours, losing 19 hours of evening provision per week across the borough. (you can see the old hours by sticking the library opening times URL in http://www.archive.org )

Of course this has happened at a time when libraries are meant to open at varied times to suit different sections of the community, and local government's meant to provide more things for kids to do in the evenings. Own goal.

The Tory Troll said...

I had heard something about the libraries. I used to live in Bexley as a kid and I went back to my local library there recently, only to find that it had been turned into 'luxury' apartments. More of this kind of thing to come no doubt under Mr Parker.

Doug said...

Lamentably, yes, I live in Bexley. I'll probably send an e-mail sometime this evening - I've been digging around for a post on him, so I'll send the stuff when I write that up. thetorytroll[at]gmail.com, isn't it?

Tom said...

Oh dear. I had Mr. Clement ticketed as the nice one out of the initial set of appointments, too.

Mr. Stop Boris said...

Don't let Katie Perrior off the hook here either. Boris's PR guru and "interim adviser" (or whatever they're called today) is Bexley council's cabinet member for community affairs, or some such, so is also a driving force behind Bexley's rampant cutbacks.

She's certainly good at her PR job, too: working with James Cleverly, Bexley and Bromley's Assembly Member, she's managed to get a plug for Boris's Oyster confiscation scheme crowbarred into a council news release about a community meeting she co-led following the stabbing of Rob Knox:


I'm sure Payback London will stop the bloodshed. Give that woman a bonus! (A share of iNHouse PR's £13,500 public transition cash should do.)

ashie said...

Interesting stuff. Am I the only one reappraising perceived wisdom and coming to the inescapable conclusion that Alistair Campbell might have got it right about Gilligan?

The Tory Troll said...

I'm not sure about what Campbell said, but Gilligan had a very important and major story with Kelly, and basically got over-enthusiastic (as ever) and screwed it up with the way in which he recorded and reported it. He also broke the fundamental journalistic code by revealing his source. The rest is (rather painful) history and Gilligan should be allowed to move on from it.

However, Gilligan's insistence that he is still a 'lefty' is looking more and more laughable as he gradually converts himself into an even more bitter version of Richard Littlejohn, whilst becoming one of the central figures and beneficiaries of the new Tory establishment. He is also not, it would appear from his recent writing, a particularly nice bloke. But that's neither here nor there I guess.

Tim said...

This is an important point.

I think it strikes at the wider issue of the provision of care services for the elderly, however - which can, and should be examined at a purely pragmatic and non-partisan level.

What's everyone's view on this? How can funding be reconciled to provision of services - i.e. my elderly neighbour with MS has been forced to buy into one of these apalling 'stay in your home while you're alive' equity schemes (in order to satisfy the council) - but this cash still doesn't provide the level of services that she should be entitled to.

A policy like this in Bromley would only serve to exacerbate this problem.

Part of this comes down to shoddy bureaucracy - i.e. my good friend in Southwark Council realised that she was 'mis-classified' under the funding system and thus behoved the council to provide a higher level of service.

But would either party realistically be able to sort this, in the context of an ageing population and a general sense of belt-tightening in all areas of expenditure.

Whoever's in power will have a tough job finding a 'sustainable (ghastly term)' solution...

angelneptunestar said...

It is good that you are so assiduous in holding the new Mayor to account and that you are so determined to protect the interests of the most vulnerable levels of society. REALLY GOOD.

The bit I don't agree with is the way a lot of people who write here jump to the worst conclusions about Mayor Johnson's motives. they seem determined to believe the worst, and that he would effect unfair cost cutting. and not care about hurting vulnerable people.

Some really huge decisions face the new Mayor, he is new to the job, and it is understandable that he wants to canvass as many trained opinions as he possibly can before he is up to speed. Some good things have already been done, drink is banned on public transport, the black cab drivers now have twenty inspectors instead of only 8, strong incentives are underway to fight knife crime, with Ray Lewis at the helm. and other things.
He has only been Mayor for seven weeks! it is not unreasonable to allow the new Mayor more time, probably a lot more, to sort out the things that are worrying you.

The Tory Troll said...

Don't worry Angela, We're waiting.