Recently at Lys Kernow we have seen two councilors ousted as saying indefensible things about disabled people. Collin Brewer was hounded out of office for remarking that "disabled children cpost the council too much money and should be out down". I think it was undoubtedly right that he resigned and feels regret and remorse for this course of action. As soon as the storm of protest on his ill advised remarks died down Councilor Neil Burden was in the press (again both stories run first by This is Cornwall) quoted as saying "the problem is there are too many disabled children". At first glance this is much more serious, Cllr Burden is a cabinet member for Children's Services and Deputy Leader of the Council, whereas Cllr Brewer is a backbencher. Again it looked as though the Independent group had little understanding of disabled people and treated them with contempt. But only that's not the case, many people have contacted me and expressed support for Neil and his work with helping disabled people on the council. They found it strange that Councilor Burden would hold such a view. Cornwall Council was quick to release a statement from Cllr Burden:
The comments I made to Sandra concerned medical errors that are sometimes the cause of disability in children. There was no malice in the comments but they were clumsy and didn’t make the point I intended. I wrote to her immediately after the incident to apologise unreservedly for my inappropriate words and I am very grateful that she recently acknowledged the work and support I have put in on behalf of disabled children in the last three years. I recognise that I expressed the point I was trying to make very badly and caused offence. I learnt an important lesson on that day and hope that my record of support for services to children with disabilities has shown that.
I sincerely apologise for the comments I made online and on twitter about Neil Burden. I in all good faith read this article which simply quoted Neil as saying there are too many disabled children without a context.
As they say actions speak louder than words. I find it odd that comments from councilors Collin's from 2011 and Neil's from 2010 have come up at this juncture. They have dominated the news coverage in Cornwall over the last few days. Whilst people like myself and many others have been expressing concern and wondering what the Lib Dem council tax freeze and the arbitary cuts it imposes (supported by the right wing of Cornwall Council's Tories) actually means for services. This has been drowned out by ill judged comments from two Independent councilors. Let's remind ourselves for a minute, the Liberal Democrat motion seeks to cut the consultant and agency worker budget at the council, the top 5 deepest cuts by department are as follows:
Children, Schools and Families £923,000
Adult, Care and Support £855,000
Information Services £366,000
Shared Services £365,000
(libraries, one stop shops,
contact, revenue and benefits)
Strategy, Localism £297,000
Heading the list paying the highest price in staffing for the council tax freeze is Childrens, Schools and Families, included in it's remit is safeguarding children, children's social care, residential care, services for children with disabilities (other duties here) Looking to Adult Care and Support, a shorter list of responsibilities: older people, adults with mental health problems, adults with learning disabilities, adults with physical disabilities, people with hearing or sight loss, HIV/ Aids drug and alcohol problems. These two departments where the axe will fall hardest, provide care to the most vulnerable people in Cornwall. Yes what Collin said was wrong, yes what Neil said (when taken out of context) was wrong. Not sure of the Cllr Brewer but when this half baked budgetary idea was forwarded by the Liberal Democrats Neil Burden voted against it because he wanted to save services because he wanted to help disabled people. Unlike the Conservatives (some of them) and Liberal Democrats (all of them) who may have not said anything against the disabled but have condemned them with their short sighted imposition of yet more cuts to Cornwall's front line services.
As I write this a Conservative has said that this freeze will "make social care impossible", not any old Tory but the cabinet member in charge of Adult Care and Support the very department that was chosen by the Lib Dems to be 2nd place in taking yet more cuts. Alex Folkes has written on his blog that people like me are scaremongering and that somehow frontline services will be protected and cut simultaneously. I asked him on twitter this
Do you know what his reply to that was his justification? No seriously, I'm asking do you know? because I don't, he never replied, absolute silence. If you want to read the rest of the officers remarks of the Lib Dem plan and their implications see here at the bottom.
Lets be angry that disabled people are poorly represented at Cornwall Council, but lets direct this at those that have voted for funding to help the most vulnerable in society be slashed. For the people that most need our help to be at the forefront of cuts.