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Councillor apologises at meeting after calling disability campaigners 'selfish' in email

PUBLISHED: 20:00 17 September 2019 | UPDATED: 20:40 17 September 2019

The meeting at County Hall. Photo: Peter Walsh

The meeting at County Hall. Photo: Peter Walsh

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A councillor who branded a couple campaigning to stop disability funding cuts as "selfish" has personally apologised for her comments at meeting of disabled people and their parents.

The meeting at County Hall in Norwich. Photo: Peter WalshThe meeting at County Hall in Norwich. Photo: Peter Walsh

In August, Margaret Stone responded to an email from Judith and Nick Taylor, from Mill Street in Buxton, after they invited Conservative county councillors and MPs to a public meeting with disabled people and their families.

Just 12 minutes after receiving the invite from Mr and Mrs Taylor, who have a 29-year-old son with Down's Syndrome, Mrs Stone replied with: "I would not even consider attending a meeting which is so biased as to only include Conservative county councillors. Your meetings are biased and lack credibility.

"I am increasingly disgusted in your campaign which is so selfish as to believe your needs are greater than the rest of the population."

But at the meeting at County Hall in Norwich on Tuesday night, Tory councillor Mrs Stone, who subsequently resigned as chairman of the Norfolk health overview and scrutiny committee after sending the email, said she was "so sorry" her email caused upset.

"Furious and hurt" Judith and Nick Taylor from Buxton near Aylsham were shocked at the email they received from Norfolk County Councillor Margaret Stone. Picture: Neil Didsbury

She said: "I wish I had never sent the email as I see the hurt it's now caused and I'm deeply, deeply sorry."

More than 150 people attended the meeting, which took place at The Kitchen canteen at County Hall.

Andrew Proctor, the leader of Norfolk County Council, said the email sent by Mrs Stone was "totally unacceptable".

Keith Roads, speaking for Disabled People Against Cuts, asked how can Mrs Stone still be a councillor, before shouting "shame on you".

Margaret Stone, Conservative member for Clavering on Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.Margaret Stone, Conservative member for Clavering on Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

He said it was an "absolute right not a privilege" for disabled people to have the care they need.

Clive Lewis, Norwich South MP, said listening to what had been said at the meeting left him with a "pretty unpleasant taste in my mouth".

Mr Lewis said he had heard from some of his constituents about how their children are suffering because of these cuts which are stopping them leading fulfilling lives.

He said: "They (disabled people) are not just there to be fed and kept in a warm room, they actually want to have a fulfilling life."

MORE: Conservative county councillor resigns after storm over email to carers

Meanwhile, there were calls for councillors to rethink controversial care cost changes - and to stop making cuts affecting the county's most vulnerable.

Earlier this year, the Conservative-controlled council agreed changes to the minimum income guarantee, which reduces the weekly allowance disabled people get.

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Another change means a benefit, the enhanced element of personal independence payments, is now taken into account when assessing care.

Combined, it means about 1,000 people are having to pay more for care and 1,400 are paying for care for the first time.

The council said the changes would save £4m from an under-pressure budget and bring Norfolk in line with other authorities.

Among those attending the meeting on Tuesday was Clive Shipp, from Terrington St Clement, near King's Lynn, who was born prematurely to a mother who had been hospitalised for five months with kidney failure.

He was given a life expectancy of two hours, but the efforts of hospital staff meant he survived.

He was subsequently diagnosed with cerebral palsy and said he had incurred extra costs for councils since the day he was born, but that has helped keep him and his wife Julie, who also has cerebral palsy, independent.

He said: "We are living proof that good interventions really can change lives. Every disabled person deserves that."

He has written an open letter to county councillors, highlighting the impact of the changes on people in Norfolk.

He said: "These are people whose care needs are immense, whose life chances are already extremely limited. Whose life choices will diminish as their families age. To deprive them of any of their income really isn't the way to go."

One speaker said parent carers were saving the council £1.9bn a year.

She asked where would the council be without parent carers doing the "other bit that you're not doing".

Bill Borrett, cabinet member for adult social care on the county council, thanked everyone for attending and said it was "really important to hear your voices".

He said they could not say they would go away and do something entirely different but that all the feedback would help to shape the way they go forward.

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