LIBERAL Democrats have attacked cuts to local care budgets warning it heralds what a Tory Government would do.

Conservative-run Southampton City Council has come under fire from care industry bosses for freezing the rate it pays for residential, nursing, home and day care.

Hampshire County Council is offering a half a per cent increase for home care and a one per cent rise for residential and nursing care. But with inflation running at 3.4 per cent it means a real term cut.

Speaking on a visit to Cedar Lawn nursing home, Romsey and Southampton north Lib Dem candidate Sandra Gidley said: “To impose real terms cuts on the wages of those who provide the support for our elderly and infirm at a time when care costs are rising will only hurt those who need help the most.

“The council certainly seems to be taking local care assistants for granted, many of whom are already underpaid for the fantastic service they provide.

She added: “This decision should be a warning to all of what the Conservatives will do if they have it all their own way after May 6.”

Amanda Wood, chairman of Hampshire Domiciliary Care Providers, said: “It is essential that local authorities realise that efficiency savings should come out of local authority systems and should not be made at the expense of frontline services.

“The result of this price freeze could mean lack of wage increases to low paid care workers, lack of money for training and ultimately home care companies going out of business.

Neil Sykes, chairman of the Hampshire Care Association said care providers would have to cut back on staff training, refurbishments and amenities for residents.

He said: “We are expected to provide a champagne service for a Coca-Cola cost.

We’ve always been underfunded.

The continuing squeeze on profit margins will eventually put people out of businesses, especially smaller providers.”

Mr Sykes added he did not think any of the main parties had a credible social care policy.

Southampton council adult care boss councillor Ivan White said both Lib Dem and Labour councillors had supported the cuts but pointed out the overall adult social care budget had risen.

He said: “We are looking after the vulnerable in the city and balancing our budget.”

Romsey Tory candidate Caroline Nokes was unavailable for comment.