VITAL personal lifeline alarms could be taken away from some of Torbay's most vulnerable people in a bid to save £25,000.
Torbay Council wants to scrap the free personal alarm system for 900 elderly and disabled people in the Bay and ask for £3 per person a week instead.
The same money has recently been spent on importing a palm tree and other measures at a roundabout in Torquay.
The £25,000 savings are part of £2.1million 'savage' cuts Torbay Council is hoping to make to its adult social care services including a £645,000 reduction in frontline staffing levels. Councillors have been told between 12 and 16 jobs are at risk. Under the proposal, personal alarm users will either get rid of theirs, or have to pay for the service. Users usually wear the alarm button on their person as a brooch, watch or around their neck.
When in danger, they ring the alarm which then alerts a next of kin or other dedicated person in the community.
Cllr Andrew Baldrey said: "Aren't these alarms supposed to help save lives? Why get rid of them?"
Cllr Darren Cowell tweeted during the meeting: "It will hardly be a choice for people who don't have any money."
Cllr Steve Darling added: "People are feeling very pressured with their own budgets. Are you going to make people who are falling by the way side pay up for these alarms when they are struggling with shopping bills, heating bills?"
Cllr Julien Parrott said the council had made a 'dog's dinner' of the budget.
Phil Heywood, assistant director business strategy and transformation for Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care Trust defended the cuts to personal alarms for vulnerable people and staffing levels to adult social care services saying many other systems were in place to provide a similar service.
He said: "People who have these alarms are already in touch with our services so I wouldn't expect any problems."
When asked by Cllr Parrott if he expected Torbay Council to pick up the tab if it goes wrong, Mr Heywood replied yes.
Cllr Parrott said: "My fear is these are not really efficiency savings, but cuts which will lead to greater suffering for members of the public."
Committee chairman Cllr John Thomas said he was baffled to see there was no long term, three-year budget plan in place similar to what private sectors businesses do.
Mayor Oliver vowed to protect 'major services that are important to our people', and insisted like Mr Heywood that staffing cuts of £645,000 to adult care services would not affect the service, but make it leaner and meaner and would not impact on users.
The committee decided to revisit the subject and ask for more long term budget information.