In the heart of the New Forest something of a modern-day Robin Hood tale is emerging. Brockenhurst councillor Ken Thornber is attempting to use his influence as the leader of Hampshire Council to stamp out proposals that would see many adults and older people across the county denied access to services and support.
The long-standing Conservative councillor took the trouble to find out at first-hand the true impact a tightening of eligibility criteria would have had on real people’s lives – and he concluded that any (presumably financial) advantages were “far outweighed by the disadvantages”.
Thornber’s actions are to be applauded. Against a backdrop of overspends and efficiency drives, he has put his head above the parapet to place the needs of the most vulnerable in society above those of the taxpayers.
The government claims to be pushing an agenda of greater independence and choice for all. But this will never be achieved if councils do not help people who are unable to properly look after themselves, people who cannot sustain their own support networks or take care of their family responsibilities because their needs are not “critical”.
Local and Westminster politicians alike must make a stand. The tightening of eligibility criteria must not become a standard response to health and local authority deficits, an ageing population, and a never-ending desire to drive down costs.