Age UK Merton are the latest group to protest against the council’s planned refusal to raise council tax to safeguard adult social care, after a petition received more than 500 signatures.

The group from Mitcham-based Age UK Merton presented the petition at the Merton Civic Centre on yesterday, as a protest against the “devastating cuts that are being proposed to older and disabled people in the borough.”

Leader of Merton Council, Councillor Stephen Alambritis, said both council tax and adult social care are “important, integral issues” which will be discussed in depth at a cabinet meeting on Monday, February 15 ahead of the budget meeting on Wednesday, March 2.

October 21: Facing the axe: Meals on wheels and adult social care services, but at least council tax will stay frozen

Chief executive of Age UK Merton, Charmaine Bennett, said the petition was started due to concerns over the reduction of care packages and social workers, and worries over what provisions will exist for those who need care in the future.

She said: “We know the leader doesn’t want to go back on his word and increase council tax, but we really believe the majority of the borough would be happy to pay the small amount extra if it meant helping the old and vulnerable in Merton.

“No one really seems to be listening to us, so we’re at a bit of a loss of what we can do. I think there’s enough support from popular opinion, but I feel very negative about it.

January 12: Vulnerable people will be driven to suicide by "devastating" adult social care cuts warn campaigners

“I’m very worried that it’s going to be pushed through anyway, because they think that protecting council tax is more important than protecting vulnerable people.

“There’s an expectation communities will step in and supply the support instead and that’s not really realistic, and it’s not the way it should be.”

The Age UK petition has received 528 signatures to date, including 427 online and 101 collected on paper.

Cabinet member for adult social care and health, Councillor Caroline Cooper-Marbiah, did not respond to the group’s request to deliver the petition to her.

The proposed £5million of cuts include a ten per cent reduction in adult social care staff, reviewing all support packages to vulnerable and disabled people and decommissioning services such as meals on wheels, the mental health charity Imagine Independence and the carer support service South Thames Crossroads.

December 9: "We all have our breaking point, and all you can do is try your best": Carers speak against Merton Council cuts

The November spending review allowed for local councils to raise the council tax by up to two per cent, specifically to raise money for adult social care.

In Merton, this would cost an average of 5p extra a day for those in the lowest tax band and 15p extra for those in the highest, and could raise £1.7 million.

Wimbledon Times:

Chief executive Charmaine Bennett (second from right) with Chris Murray, Clare Gummett, Genevieve Alvares and Helen Bery.

At a Labour meeting on January 11, Cllr Alambritis put forward a vote to keep his election promises and freeze council tax, and push ahead with the proposed cuts to adult social care.

The vote was seconded by Cllr Cooper-Marbiah, and supported by 23 other councillors.

However, a cross party scrutiny panel held on Tuesday, January 12, voted unanimously to challenge the proposals and ask the cabinet to “review and think again” about the scale and speed of the cuts.

January 13: Emotional scrutiny panel votes unanimously to challenge Merton Council over "devastating" cuts to adult social care

And at a local Labour party meeting on Thursday, January 28, three separate motions calling on the council to raise the tax and reduce the cuts were passed overwhelmingly.

Cllr Alambritis said: “In our cabinet meeting on Monday we will take into account and look into the feedback from the scrutiny process.

“We will see what we can do to look after both adult social care and keep our promise.”

He added: “We care about everyone in the London borough of Merton.

February 3: Merton council leader Stephen Alambritis refuses to bend as rebel Labour party urges him to raise tax and 'save adult social care'

“There are senior citizens and vulnerable people who are looked after by adult social care, but given the difficult circumstances given to us by the Government and George Osborne there are issues.

“There’s also an important issue regarding affordability for people on fixed incomes who would struggle with a council tax rise.

“They are both integral, important issues.”

The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Merton Park Independent Party have also all spoken against the cuts.

To sign the Age UK Merton petition, click here. 

Would you pay more council tax to lessen the adult social care cuts? Take our poll at the bottom of this story.