A last-ditch attempt to sway Greenwich Council away from new social care charges has been made to no avail by disability advocates.

Impassioned pleas were made by two campaigners against the proposed charges at a meeting of Greenwich’s cabinet this month.

The changes, which would see the council introduce a package of new charges aimed at clawing back £1.6m in spiralling adult social care costs, form part of the authority’s budget plans for the coming financial year.

Jenny Hurst – a wheelchair-using resident who co-founded Greenwich Disabled People Against Cuts – voiced issues with consultation during the proposals, which she called a “tokenistic tick-box exercise”.  

She added the lack of hard copy documents “discriminated against a wide group of people who don’t use online or social media”.   

“You asked to what extent people agree with changes to social care…it wasn’t consultation at all, it was a tokenstic tick-box exercise.” 

“Does independence mean the same to you as it does to us? Without involving us you don’t know.”

She was followed by Sue Elsegood, another wheelchair-using resident and chair of disability advocacy group Metro GAD, who delivered a statement on behalf of another resident with disability, Fred Williams.

“You are a bunch of cowards, you never told us about the £8m cuts to care you’re going to make over the next four years,” she read from the statement. 

“You seem to have forgotten you have a duty of care.”

In response, council leader Dan Thorpe said the length of the consultation was “out of our control” and was brought on by the general Government election in December. 

Cllr Averil Lekau, the cabinet member for adult social care, added consultation was not purely about reducing costs, but also providing a better service.

“It’s not about spiralling costs, it’s about the quality of the service we’re providing,” she said. 

“We feel very strongly this work is helping us understand how we can provide a better service to our residents, and it is about giving resilience and independence and to say independence equates to reduced services is not necessarily the case.” 

She was followed by Damon Cook, the borough’s director of finance, who said: “This is not necessarily about budget cuts, we are already spending well in excess of the set budget for health and adults”.

“Any of these changes are about reducing that overspend, we are already spending way over what we had budgeted for those services.” 

The statements came as the cabinet also voted through proposals to raise council tax by 3.99 per cent.

The raise – which will include a 2 per cent rise of the social care precept and a 1.99 rise of council tax – would see a band D household pay an extra 90p a week.

Other proposals adopted by the council this year however have seen the borough’s poorest residents made completely exempt from having to pay council tax.

The proposed social care charges had been one of the most contentious plans for Greenwich’s upcoming budget, which has been compiled with an eye on a potential funding gap of £57m emerging over the next four years.

Director of finance Mr Cook said the £57m gap was “derived out of two particular issues – one being a structural deficit” where services are showing gross overspends of about £25m. 

He said further pressures forecast over the next four years brought the sum total to £57m.