England

'What council tax has done for me'

Stock illustration of a council tax bill Image copyright stocknshares

Nearly all local authorities are concerned for their financial stability, according to a survey carried out by BBC News, which also indicates the majority of local authorities plan to raise council tax, cut spending, or both.

Everybody relies on council services to some extent, whether it is bin collection, road maintenance or the local library. But some people rely on services more than others.

BBC News spoke to some of them.

The young mum who had a stroke

Image copyright Katie Simpson

Many people in East Sussex who have had a stroke rely on a charity - the Stroke Association - to help them rebuild their lives. The organisation currently receives an £80,000 grant from the county council - but the local authority recently voted through a £17m savings package and a 5.99% council tax rise, which will see a number of frontline services affected.

Katie Simpson is a mother of two girls. She had a stroke in 2013 when she was aged 25 and 16 weeks pregnant with a baby boy.

"I had lost feeling in my body, and my speech was starting to slur.

"Doctors had to make the decision whether to save my life or for me to deliver my unborn baby first. I gave birth to my baby son, who was stillborn.

"Scans confirmed I'd had several mini-stokes, and strokes on the left and right side of my brain.

"I had to move back into my parents' home with my two daughters. The stroke left me with severe fatigue, a communication difficulty called aphasia, left-sided weakness in my body, on-going chronic pain, and issues with swallowing which meant I could only eat pureed food like a baby.

"The Stroke Association supported me when I left hospital, and have continued to support me with many aspects of my life over the past five years.

"My little girls were only four and seven years old.

"I felt like I'd lost my life. It was really difficult. All of a sudden the simple things I'd naturally do with my children were really challenging - you never quite realise how much you actually use your limbs until you lose the power to move them.

"Walking was difficult, cooking, using kitchen utensils, reading a bed time story, trying to help my children get ready for school - it's so sad when you are the adult and you can't do their buttons on their tops or tie their laces. Even putting their hair up was impossible.

"I remember crying because I felt like a failure and that I couldn't help them with such simple things.

"Thanks to support from the Stroke Association I have regular therapy sessions to help with this.

"I owe so much thanks to the Stroke Association for being there for me and my family through my darkest days and bringing me out on the other side."

The new mum's support network

Northamptonshire County Council is currently consulting on almost £35m worth of cuts and plans to close some of its libraries.

Rachel McMain is a member of campaign group Save Kingsthorpe Library, which she first used as a child.

"I used to get books there with my grandma and these days I use the library's children's services with my own one-year-old baby.

"I have accessed the service since I was tiny. Now I'm a new mum and if I hadn't have had the library I wouldn't have had the support network that I have now.

"It's not just the children's services, it's people that are vulnerable in the community. It is a place for them to meet, to socialise.

"The council will fund the libraries for one more year before they are taken over by community groups, but for Kingsthorpe it is not great news.

"The council said it would be extremely difficult for Kingsthorpe to be a community-run library but has still decided to make that decision.

"Kingsthorpe doesn't have a parish or town council that can support it so we don't have an immediate funding stream available to us."

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