DR STUART White was indignant as he made a passionate stand to protect the rights of his disabled son.
He believes Oxfordshire residents should not have to “squawk” to council chiefs to maintain public services that provide a vital lifeline to many families.
The university lecturer from Marston was addressing the first of a series of meetings, organised by Oxfordshire County Council, to ask residents how it should slash £200m from its budget over the next five years.
About 80 people attended the event at County Hall and cuts to services for the elderly, vulnerable and disabled were among the main topics.
Dr White’s son Isaac, six, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a severe form of the condition, and relies on council services to help him lead a fulfilling life. He receives one-to-one tuition at school, speech therapy, physical disability support and sees an educational psychologist.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, Dr White said: “To what extent do you accept the idea that citizens have a right to public services?
“And given the scale of the cuts you are proposing, aren’t you asking us ‘whose rights are going to be violated’?”
Afterwards Dr White, from Marston, said: “I resent being put in a position were I’m being invited to squawk on behalf of my child’s rights, knowing someone else will have to pay, who has just as much right to their service.”
Isaac’s condition means he has a life expectancy of 20 or 30 years and his dad said treatment provided by the council helped his son live a full life and take part in mainstream education.
Dr White, who is a fellow of Jesus College, said: “Without them he would be physically isolated and fall behind.”
Bethan Tichborne, a former assistant in a special school, told the council the notion of volunteers providing care for the elderly was unrealistic.
She said: “It’s hard to get people to be care assistants for money, people won’t wipe bottoms for free.”
Residents also questioned the political need for the planned £200m savings and what the authority was doing to try to bring the total down.
But leader Keith Mitchell said Government support for the authority, which provides road maintenance, social care, schools and libraries, would be reduced following this autumn’s spending review and the cuts were inevitable.
He added: “It has to be a balancing act. The elderly, disabled and vulnerable people have to be high in that.”
The council is staging its Oxfordshire Big Debate consultation to help gather public views and the results will be considered as part of its budget setting process.
Oxfordshire County Council is staging four more public meetings. The dates are:
- Thursday, September 16, 7.30-9pm, Cornerstone Arts Centre, Didcot
- Tuesday, September 21, 7.30-9pm, Langdale Hall, Witney
- Wednesday, September 29, 7.30-9pm, Town Hall, Banbury
- Thursday, September 30, 7.30-9pm, Abbey Hall, Abingdon Or have your say online at oxfordshire.gov/bigdebate