Tory councillor to write to PM over 'most vulnerable'

A COUNCILLOR is to write to the Prime Minister outlining fears that the most "vulnerable people" in society are going to be hit as programmes designed to help them are scaled back.

Conservative councillor Ray Wells will write to David Cameron about the move to slash the Early Intervention Grant, which funds programmes for families, disabled children and those with mental health problems, by 21 per cent.

From April, Hartlepool Borough Council's Early Intervention Grant (EIG) will be cut from 8.8m to 6.9m, a reduction in grant funding of 1.9m.

The local authority, which has had its overall grant settlement reduced by about 10m, is faced with slashing 20m from its 90m budget over the next four years, with 150 jobs set to go and proposed closures of branch libraries and community centres.

EIG-funded programmes that will have to be scaled back include Connexions, an information, guidance and advice service for 13 to 19-year-olds, which could see more than 250,000 cut from its 1.2m budget, children's centres in town could see the overall 3.2m budget cut by 694,000 while funding for teenage pregnancy and youth substance misuse programmes could also be hit.

The 381,630 budget for providing short breaks for disabled children could be cut by 80,000 while the targeted mental health in schools programme is facing a 47,000 reduction from its 222,500 budget.

Cuts to the EIG were discussed by members of the council's scrutiny co-ordinating committee, at which Coun Wells was asked by Labour councillor Pam Hargreaves if he would write to the Government.

Coun Wells said: "I totally support early intervention programmes and I have seen first hand the benefits.

"I don't support the Government in everything that it does, however, I realise that cuts have to be made. Whether they should be made as quickly as they are is open to debate."

He added: "I will write to the PM to highlight the local authority's concerns and hopefully the Government will look favourably upon us."

Labour councillor Ged Hall added: "It is the most vulnerable people in Hartlepool that will suffer as a result of these particular cuts."

A number of specific grants and grants previously paid via the Area Based Grant have been transferred into the new EIG, which has been reduced significantly for 2011-12.

There is a slight increase of 1.8 per cent for 2012-13.