Is this a necessary cut or just a cruel cut? Shropshire Council is scheming to reduce the minimum income guarantee for the neediest adults. Of course, budgets are tight. Other councils pay less to needy people than Shropshire. So as always, Shropshire Council is following the pack to the back rather than leading from the front.
We should support the most vulnerable and impoverished in our society, not pay council executives more.
We have seen this argument before. A few months ago, Conservative councillors decided that those struggling on benefit should pay 20% of their council tax. The argument ran that other councils charge this, so we can do the same. And, revealing a more poisonous attitude, one councillor stood up in the council chamber and argued that everyone should take a share of the burden of cuts, including the poorest.
The minimum income guarantee is the amount of money that people who benefit payments for social care will have left after paying towards those care costs. It’s the free money to pay for food, travel, TV Licences and, hey, a day out at the beach. Even using community transport like the excellent Ludlow Traveller costs money. Did I mention gas, electricity and phone bills? Many older people have pets. They are essential to their health and wellbeing but cost money for food and vet’s bills.
Shropshire Council is planning to reduce the minimum income guarantee to the state minimum. One of its objectives is to ensure that pensioners do not get more “spare” income than people of working age.
Not everyone will be familiar with this system, so I’ll explain it.
The statutory minimum guaranteed income for pensioners in Shropshire is £189.00 per week for a single person and £144.30 per week for a member of a couple. If people don’t have this money coming in, they won’t pay anything towards social care.
But once they are above the minimum income guarantee, money is swept away to pay for social care.
In 2016, Shropshire Council decided to set the minimum at £5.50 a week higher than the national minimum for a single person of pensionable age. It is £4.30 for couples. That might not sound much, but with soaring energy prices and food and transport costs rising, it is cash that can make a difference between having a quality life or suffering an isolated, cold and poorly nourished life. But there was a catch in the formula. As pensions increased, most of the extra was taken away for social care costs. The cost of living goes up but the money our most vulnerable people must pay for it has barely increased.
Now Shropshire Council is consulting on reducing the minimum income guarantee.
In it’s first option, it wants to keep the minimum income guarantee for pensioners at the level it is now. The second option, the one the council wants, is to reduce the minimum income guarantee to a single person will have £4.74 a week less and a couple will lose £3.35 a week. Again, it doesn’t sound much. But if you have almost nothing to live on, it’s a blow. There is a lot you can do with an extra £250 a year (£175 for single people).
The council says that £467,000 saved under the second option will go back into the social care budget. It doesn’t mention that the social care budget would be higher if the Conservative councillors proposing these cuts to the minimum income guarantee had not decided to splash out more than a quarter of a million on pay increases for the council’s seven most senior officers.
This is the way that Shropshire Council thinks. The needy don’t get as much help from other councils so Shropshire should give them less. The top executives are paid even more in other councils, so they must be paid more.