Cuts start at the bottom

We have been well warned and fully understand the reasons for severe spending cuts which will affect us all.

For the people in the Borders, however, there is a little bit extra to pay due to the Icelandic bank fiasco.

Nevertheless we have always been assured by our politicians that the less well off and vulnerable members of our society would be protected from these cuts. It would appear, however, that this is not to be the case in the Borders.

A substantial number of people in our ageing population enjoy independent living, but are finding their situation is becoming increasingly difficult.

These are not benefit scroungers, their circumstances are all too familiar and arise after a working life on low pay and no occupational pension scheme or savings to fall back on. Others may experience financial hardship through long-term ill health, disability or loss of a partner. Many manage to scrape through on an income which is a fraction of a councillor’s basic allowance.

It is the frail and vulnerable who are being overwhelmed by disproportionate increases in the cost of living and fuel to heat their homes. For a number of reasons many in this group rely heavily on home-care alarms and the meals on wheels provided by the council. Last Thursday councillors approved an increase of 40p per day for the meals, making total monthly cost £120 to the pensioner.

The consequences of this increase, which to some of us may be paltry, will certainly result in considerable hardship for many, and in some cases the meals will be unaffordable.

More serious, however, is the prospect of increasing numbers in this group finding they are no longer able to sustain themselves living independently and require to be taken into residential care at a cost of approximately £2,000 per month each. This makes no sense at all and these increased charges should be withdrawn without delay.

It is to be hoped that the information passed by the council to the firm it engaged, as reported in TheSouthern last week, has been sifted sufficiently to ensure that innocent people such as the elderly are not caused undue anxiety or distress. The wisdom of any council passing control of information it holds on single-occupancy households to any private company or individual is open to question.

Andrew I. Farquhar

Wilton Dean

Hawick

The opinions expressed in the Southern’s comment column of February 3 would appear to reflect the thoughts of many Borderers who would applaud the efforts of Scottish Borders Council to avoid compulsory redundancies under extremely difficult circumstances of a budget reduction imposed by a Con Dem government.

Working with the trade unions to protect as many jobs as possible and maintaining essential services is indeed commendable to all involved.

However, those in SBC attempting to achieve the high standards required to ensure a service to Borderers need full support from those who hold the purse strings. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case.

The Con Dem Government has decided to reduce masses of funding in the knowledge that this will reduce the amount of people employed and also cause a diminution of services. How can it be possible to reduce a deficit under these circumstances?

Its strategy and dogmatic approach will not get Britain on a firm footing and is in great danger of pushing us into a position which would have the opposite effect. Remember, this is year one of the cuts – what is sacrificed year two?

The current difficulties were as a direct result of the greed of the capitalist system which allowed banks and other financial institutions to cause this global crisis. Labour was not responsible for the massive difficulties suffered in the economies of the USA, nor of Spain, Greece, and Germany etc.

How is it financially sound to cut thousands of jobs within public services?

If I work for the council in a full-time job almost £100 is deducted from the wage and is redistributed back into society, helping to pay old-age pensions, national health and all the other benefits of British society. They further contribute to their own pension scheme as well as paying council tax, electric, gas, phone etc. The contribution they make while in work benefits us all. If this job is lost due to cuts then the state must find the money from somewhere else – yes some other worker.

To get to work they will probably travel and use a car because of need. The government has raised vat to 20 per cent, meaning paying more for travel costs to get to work. Why oh why is it that when this government states that we will all have to suffer, what it really means is the people who work for a living will take the pain due to the increases imposed.

It’s about time that those Borderers in work joined in fighting back against those political parties who are operating on an ideology, not because of necessity.

Rab Stewart

(prospective candidate for the Labour party, Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

High Street

Hawick

I have looked at the Scottish Borders Council budget proposals for an indication that the cuts may affect some of the higher-paid employees.

However, I looked in vain and it appears that the cleaners will be the only ones who lose out by reductions in their working week. This in a week when a new £90,000-per-annum director is appointed. A four-day week for senior directors and the chief executive on such salaries would equate to an £18,000 per annum saving per post which, given even an £8-per-hour wage for cleaners, would equate to 2,250 cleaning hours.

It appears that those on the lowest pay will be the ones to carry the heaviest burden of cuts. Whoever suggested we are all in this together clearly didn’t have SBC in mind.

Derek Bell

Meadow Court

Kelso