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Cheshire East councillors have clashed over plans to charge residents aged 85 and over £5 per week for ‘assistive technology’ care, writes Ethan Davies.

The plans, which were approved for public consultation on Tuesday April 6, would mean over 85s pay the same “standard charge” as other assistive technology users.

However, Conservative councillors said to extend the charges to that age group would “reflect poorly on the council”.

In response, the ruling Labour-Independent group said “no one unable to afford the service would have to pay for it”.

“This removal is one of the most basic packages for the most vulnerable in society,” Conservative Cllr Jos Saunders said.

“Why are we even considering the most uncaring of decisions which will reflect poorly on this council?”

Her Tory colleague and opposition leader Cllr Janet Clowes also criticised the scope of the consultation, which is set to only include current users of the service.

Cllr Clowes added: “I do have some concern and that is that this is such a venerable cohort, we need to guard against unrealistic expectations of savings.

“I am deeply concerned that a number of people, many of whom are on an edge, will be assessed and be told they will have to pay for it themselves — and decide not to get it.”

However, Labour’s Cabinet member for adult social care Cllr Laura Jeuda defended the idea — saying it would help to reduce ‘health inequality’ in the borough.

Cllr Jeuda said: “Care is changing and this is evident in the pandemic where people wanted to stay in their own homes.

“The current service user contribution is around £280,000. This comes from 80% from under 85s.

“If a charge was introduced to over 85-year-olds, it could lead to an income of £275,000 a year and help address the health inequality in the borough.”

A pre-meeting report also said that “no one unable to afford the service would have to pay for it”, which Cllr Jeuda repeated in response to the Conservative criticism.

The Cabinet unanimously approved sending the plans out for public consultation.

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