Protesting carers and service users turned out in force to make an emotional appeal to Walsall bosses to overturn funding cuts to the community alarm service.

Around 100 people staged the demonstration against budget cuts outside Walsall Council House last night (Monday, January 7) ahead of a full council meeting, in which mother-of-two Amy Wolfs handed a petition to force a debate in the chamber.

Last month, the ruling Conservative administration decided to scrap the £1.29 million funding for the alarms saying there was no money left to fund the non-statutory service which was no longer fit for purpose.

But the decision sparked fury amongst residents who described it as a lifeline for disabled and elderly residents.

Protesters demonstrate against budget cuts outside Walsall Council House on Monday, January 7.
Protesters demonstrate against budget cuts outside Walsall Council House on Monday, January 7.
 

Labour councillors stood with carers, service users, Walsall Pensioners Convention and members of the Trade Unions Council to show their opposition to the decision.

They were also joined by families opposed to a proposed cut of Home to School transport services for 16-19-year-olds with special education needs.

Tory councillors, including leader Mike Bird, were chanted at and urged to "do the right thing" as they made their way into the building for the meeting.

Carer and mother-of-two Amy Wolfs at the protest against budget cuts outside Walsall Council House on Monday, January 7.
Carer and mother-of-two Amy Wolfs at the protest against budget cuts outside Walsall Council House on Monday, January 7.
 

Mrs Wolfs, whose husband David has multiple sclerosis and uses an alarm, said: "The alarms have been a lifesaver and people will not feel safe without them.

"Cabinet are taking the service away from them and expecting them to fund the cost of a service that saves their lives.

"I have heard so many heartbreaking stories from service users. Every single one has described them as essential and every single one has said they are needed.

"One person told me she had to decide between food and heating in order to save to pay for a service that is so vitally needed.

"These people have a human right to dignity and a quality of life and cutting off the alarm takes that away.

"The apathy amongst many is sickening. The attitude is 'but we have to make cuts, we're really sorry, we don't want to'. But you have the ability and the power to make the recommendation that this service remains.

"It seems this council knows the cost of everything but the value of nothing."

Labour councillor Ann Young described the decision as "despicable" while her group leader Sean Coughlan said that, while his previous administration had also recommended a funding cut, they would have continued with a £720,000-budget service to support vulnerable residents.

Walsall Council, The Civic Centre.
Walsall Council, The Civic Centre.
 

Portfolio holder Rose Martin said: "When the community alarm service first started, it was set up as a good and manageable service.

"Even though there was no statutory requirement to provide it, it worked well.

"However it has grown into something that is not sustainable. This service is no longer fit for purpose without significant investment which the council does not have.

"I understand it's a difficult decision to make but we have no alternative."

Councillor Bird added that the alarms ran on an analogue system and it would cost around £5 million to convert it to digital.