Campaigners have cautiously welcomed a “small victory” in their David and Goliath battle against care cuts.
Last month, Derbyshire County Council agreed to start charging more for home care services – affecting 7,000 vulnerable adults.
Now the authority has decided that the 75 per cent increase in charges will be phased in over two-and-half years – rather than immediately – to lessen the impact on those affected.
In addition, the Labour-led council will delay the introduction of a charge of £5 per day for transport to its care centres until next April.
Gary Matthews, of the Disabled People Against Cuts campaign group, said: “I welcome this small victory which comes after pressure from protesters.
“But let’s be clear – it is only a small victory. We don’t want to see any care cuts at all – it’s a matter of life and death.
“Delaying these charges is a bit like slow throttling rather than quick strangulation,” he added.
The authority needs to save £157million by 2018 because of Government austerity.
Councillor Clare Neill, cabinet member for adult social care, said: “We know this is an anxious time for people using our services and I want individuals and groups to know that I am still listening and working hard to try to find different ways of doing things that can save money and mitigate the impact of the cuts.
“I believe that spreading the increased contributions people make towards their care over the next two-and-a-half years will lessen the impact of the change.”
This move will cost the authority £903,000 but a council spokesman said the shortfall will be met from its general reserves.
The Conservativesgroup on the council claim Labour councillors are “dithering” over making cuts.
However, Labour insists it is being “compassionate”.
If all the proposals go ahead, the result could be around 2,000 fewer jobs at the county council over the next three years on top of the 1,600 announced last year. It is hoped that job losses will be minimised by not replacing staff who leave and by voluntary redundancy and early retirement schemes. Every effort will be made to avoid compulsory redundancies.
Council Leader Councillor Anne Western said: “We need to be absolutely clear - we do not want to make these unrelenting cuts which will affect services local people rely on. The Government has left us no choice and we are having to think the unthinkable.”