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Council consultation documents 'difficult to understand'
A CONSULTATION being held by Worcestershire County Council on proposed spending cuts could be rendered "meaningless" if people are unable to have their say, according to leaders at a major Wyre Forest social housing group.
Staff at Kidderminster-based Community Housing Group have raised concerns residents will not have a chance to influence how key services for older and vulnerable people will be delivered because of difficulty in accessing the survey document and understanding it.
The "future lives" consultation seeks views on proposed changes to prevention, early help and other support services for adults and housing support for young people, currently funded by the council. The restructuring will aim to save nearly £1 million, as part of the authority's plan to slash its spending by £30 million during the 2014/15 financial year.
Nigel Fain, Community Housing Group head of care and support services said Wyre Forest was below the national average when it came to the number of people who had access to the internet and even if they managed to get a printed copy of the consultation document, the 18-page booklet was difficult to understand and complete.
He said: "The county council launched an online consultation on November 19 which finishes on January 21. This only gives 60 days, instead of the usual 90 days, for people to read and understand a really complex document.
"They will then be expected to give their opinion about how the remaining budget should be shared among other services such as supporting people with mental health issues, victims of domestic abuse and families in crisis.
"We have invited the county council to come to the district and talk directly to local people. They need to answer questions about how the cuts will affect valuable support services and how they are going to protect the most vulnerable in our communities. Unless people have a clear understanding of the implications of the cuts, the consultation is meaningless.
"Wyre Forest residents deserve the same right as everyone else in Worcestershire to have their say."
County councillors and staff will hold a series of consultation events for members of the public to attend, including one at Kidderminster Library, Market Street, on Tuesday, January 14, from 2.30pm until 4.30pm.
Speaking last November to The Shuttle about the consultation, Conservative councillor Marcus Hart, cabinet member for health and well-being, said: "It is vitally important anyone who has a view does come forward and take part so we can make an informed decision when the consultation closes. No decisions will be made until this happens and any decision will ensure those adults who are eligible for adult social care will continue to receive it.
"People can take part by visiting worcestershire.gov.uk/futurelives and paper copies are being made available in public buildings around the county."
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