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Nottinghamshire County Council delays proposed cuts to disability benefit payments

Proposed cuts to disability benefit payments will be delayed and rolled out in two phases.

In November, hundreds of the county’s most disabled people were given just a few day’s notice that the they would have to pay up to £56.55 a week towards their care.

Many people criticised how the cuts were handled, with one leading councillor calling it ‘organised outrageous’, and ‘callous’

Protest at County Hall (5895512)
Protest at County Hall (5895512)

Last week the leader of the Conservative-led Nottinghamshire County Council, Kay Cutts, apologised personally, and said her council ‘didn’t handle it as well as it could have done.’

Now, at an emotional meeting at County Hall today (Monday, December 10), it was decided to pause the rollout. The first round of cuts will be made in April 2019, and the reductions will come into force in full from November.

The changes relate to how much of a person’s disability benefits they can keep before they are told to contribute towards their care.

It means 862 people who don’t currently pay anything will be asked to pay, while 1,486 who currently pay will be asked to pay more.

There were angry shouts from the public gallery as the decision was being made, including cries of ‘disgrace’, and one man shouted: “You are taking money off disabled people. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

He later added: “Do you know how much hurt and distress you have caused.”

Conservative Councillor Stuart Wallace is the chairman of the committee which took the decision today, and represents the Newark East ward.

He said the council was under significant financial pressure, and that the move brought the council in line with other parts of the country.

“We have slightly got it wrong, I fully accept we’ve got it wrong, and I fully apologise to people for any distress we may have caused.”

Councillor Wallace added his department was helping ensure people received the full benefits they are entitled to, and would consider waivers for some people.

He said: “We have made a promise that people for whom this is making a catastrophic change on their life to approach us and we will look at waivers.”

Jerry Hague is the Labour Parliamentary candidate for Sherwood, and has been campaigning for the council to reverse the cuts.

He said: “We’ve been shocked by the number of people in Nottinghamshire who have contacted us about the sudden letters they have received, informing them of imminent charges they would have to pay.

“These payments enable people to live independent lives, to go out into the community and to engage with family and friends.

“The most shocking thing in particular was the very short time scale and the huge amounts involved. It is completely unacceptable.

“The delay is welcomed, it seems to be a panicked response to the fact that they have been overwhelmed with criticism and the real stories of people who have been affected.

“We now need to make sure the cuts are reversed, otherwise people will remain in a state of anxiety and distress, and with real concerns about how their quality of life is going to be reduced.”

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