This Council notes that:
After an increase of 50% in April this year, Ofgem have again increased the energy price cap, this time by 80%, taking a typical household energy bill to £3,549 a year.
As well as soaring energy bills, food prices are growing rapidly and the Bank of England has warned that inflation, currently at 11%, is likely to hit 13%, increasing the risk of recession. In 2021/22 Grantham’s Food bank alone provided 42,723 meals. Demand on all the Food banks in our district – Bourne, Stamford and the Deepings – continues to grow.
This Council therefore:
1. declares a ‘Cost of Living Emergency’ and calls on the Government to cancel the energy price cap increase due in October;
2. pledges to improve communication of Housing Benefit and Council Tax support schemes for those on low incomes in order to ensure those who are entitled to additional support are receiving it;
3. resolves to organise a local ‘Cost of Living Emergency Summit’ with key groups including Citizens Advice, Food Banks, local community and business groups and Town & Parish Councils to discuss how it can best support its residents through this current crisis and use its influence and resources to create positive change.
October: The price cap announced in August takes effect. A £400 grant to reduce energy bills for all UK households will start to roll-out.
November: Ofgem will set the price cap again after changing its policy to review it every three months, rather than every six.
January 2023: Energy bills forecast by consultancy Cornwall Insight to hit more than £5,300 a year for a typical household.
April 2023: Energy bills forecast by consultancy Cornwall Insight to hit more than £6,600 a year for a typical household.
Councillor Amanda Wheeler proposed the following motion, which had been amended from the printed version available in the agenda pack with the consent of Council. The original wording had been replaced with the following:
Cost of Living
Ofgem increased the energy price cap by 50% in April this year and had proposed increasing the typical household energy bill further to £3,549 from October.
It is noted that the government has now proposed that the household energy bill will be £2,500 from October giving a saving of around £1,000 p.a.
As well as energy bills, food and fuel prices have increased substantially, and inflation is currently running at 10% and expected to rise.
All of this is putting increasing pressure on family budgets, and it is important that the Council do all it can to help its residents.
The Council therefore:
1. pledges to improve communication of Housing Benefit and Council Tax support schemes for those on low incomes in order to ensure those who are entitled to additional support are receiving it.
2. resolves to organise a local “Cost of Living Working Group” with key groups including Citizens’ Advice, food banks, local community and business groups and Town and Parish Councils. This is to discuss how it can best support its residents through this current crisis and use its influence and resources to create positive change.
In introducing the motion, Councillor Wheeler stressed that it was important that the Council did all it could to support local residents with the cost of living by working with local organisations; for example Citizen’s Advice. Examples of the current issues given by Citizen’s Advice were:
· increased calls to the service;
· an increase in food bank referrals and support with energy bills.
Councillor Wheeler highlighted the hard work of the food banks in the Deepings, Bourne, Stamford and Grantham, as well as commending charities, community groups, churches, and officers at the Council.
A dedicated page on the Council’s website had been created to draw all the resources together that assisted with the cost of living, to ensure residents and businesses had a central point of information. Councillor Wheeler re-affirmed that the original motion included in the agenda pack had been amended to ensure cross-party support.
The Chairman of the Council seconded the motion and invited members to debate. The following points were raised during debate:
· The cost of living was already a national emergency and there would be a fiscal event held by the government; it was hoped this event would address some of cost of living issues;
· A Cost of Living Strategic Working Group had already been set up and was chaired by the Cabinet Member for People and Safer Communities. It met on a weekly basis and was supported by a team of Senior Managers; invites were also extended to external stakeholders from public, private and voluntary sector organisations;
· It was noted that not all residents would have internet access, and therefore would not be able to access the cost of living webpage. It was likely therefore that word of mouth updates, through Town and Parish Councils would be important to reach these individuals;
· Cost of living ‘support events’ would be planned in the Deepings, Stamford, Bourne and Grantham, supported by a range of external stakeholders. Further information would be provided at the Rural and Communities Overview and Scrutiny meeting on 5 October 2022;
· Emotional wellbeing and mental health concerns were paramount, and it would be important to link in cost of living work with the Mental Health Working Group;
· Those residents that were not accessing support that they were otherwise entitled to would be contacted by officers;
· The cost of living was something that would not just affect those vulnerable members of society, it would also touch those on middle incomes. One of the ways in which the Council could provide help was through the use of a ‘hub’;
· When calling on the help of local charities in the district it would be important that this help was not piecemeal and was available to all, not just those in the towns where the charities were based.
· Cost of living updates would be reported back publicly to the Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
· The Council had an Employment Committee that looked after the welfare of staff, in addition to the People Panel, which contained staff representatives from all departments of the Council. The People Panel gave staff the opportunity to raise concerns to senior members of staff and members.
Upon being put to the vote, the motion was AGREED.