Published: February 23, 2012
MP calls council's U-turn on cuts a 'knee jerk response to save face'

Burnham-On-Sea's MP has this week called a decision by Somerset County Council to put on hold its proposed cuts to the Young Carers' Budget a "knee jerk response to save face after misjudging the public's reaction to its devastating proposals."

Tessa Munt's comments come after Somerset County Council said that, following concerns raised by young carers, it is to reconsider its current proposals for the Young Carers Service, pending further consultations.

Tessa has welcomed the decision, but told "The Council has agreed to give a year to consult Young Carers and their families about any changes, which is what should have happened in the first place. Picking on those with the greatest challenges in life, who are often the silent and unseen backbone of our most vulnerable families is, in my view, completely 'below the belt'."

"The annual budget for the 341 young carers is 'tiny', at about £140,000. John Osman, the council's cabinet member, says he wants change as the Young Carers' service is "patchy" across Somerset. The reason the service is "patchy" is because his administration has run the service down and it has been operating well below its capacity since early last year. It is understaffing that makes the service "patchy". I calculated that the number of hours lost through understaffing was over 2,700. Cllr Osman will no doubt be quietly celebrating these hidden savings of nearly £28,000 - 20% of the annual Young Carers' budget for this year."

"Whilst no one denies the need for savings to be made, Somerset County Council actually received one the best deals of all the shire counties. They've an extra £5million in the bank since last year, and expect to have a total of £34million saved by the end of the year."

"If Somerset County Council is 'saving for a rainy day’, the Conservative Councillors need to take a look outside, because it's pouring down. When you have £34million sitting in the bank, you don’t need to whip the carpet out from beneath the feet of Somerset's most vulnerable young people."

Meanwhile, Cabinet Member John Osman said: "I'm pleased that following my discussions with young carers over the past few days and weeks, we have listened to what they have said and we want to take pause and take stock."

"I want to work closely with the young carers, their families and supporters to shape a service that will meet their needs whilst still allowing us to balance the budget."

"Our current service is patchy and we need to improve it to bring better help and support to our young carers who have such an important role. I am committed to seeing this improvement through and will talk with everyone concerned who wants to contribute to make sure all views are heard and considered."

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