Changes to charges for Durham County Council’s community alarm system are to be considered by councillors next week (16 March).
Following consultation with people who use it – and other local authorities – Cabinet will be asked to agree an increased contribution from the public.
The proposals would see a 20p a week increase for customers who already pay for the service, taking the weekly charge from £4.60 to £4.80. In addition, a contributory charge of £2.80 per week would be introduced for anyone who does not currently pay for the service because they receive means-tested benefits.
The charges, which will bring Durham County Council in line with other authorities, are being changed to allow the service to become more self-sufficient in light of the council having to meet a savings target of £257 million by 2020.
Public consultation revealed that over 55 per cent of those who currently don’t pay agreed with the charge or were not concerned by it. A further 80 per cent of those currently paying agreed with the increase and said that they relied on the service which provided value for money.
10 per cent of respondents said that it would make the service unaffordable. However, if the changes are agreed, anyone no longer able to afford the service will be directed to Social Care Direct for an assessment so that appropriate support is offered to those in greatest need.
Cllr Eddie Tomlinson, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for assets, strategic housing and rural issues, said: “Care Connect is an essential service for thousands of people across the county. However, we need make significant savings, so we can only continue to provide this service by changing our charging policy and bringing us into line with other authorities.
“By increasing the contribution that people using the service make, we can continue providing a quality service.”
If Cabinet agree the changes, the council will be writing to everyone affected to explain the new charges.
Cabinet is due to meet on Wednesday, 16 March at County Hall.