In summary, Councillor Wallace made reference to the following points which were responded to accordingly by Councillor Becker and relevant officers:
· Residents had been hit hard by the cost-of-living crisis with high numbers of residents turning to The Trussell Trust and other foodbanks for emergency food parcels, with a significant rise in the number of households requiring support over the last three years.
· He supported the report and thanked officers for their hard work of those directly involved in the cost-of-living programme and those across the council who provided short term crisis support, including the revenues and benefits, housing, communications and customer service team, as well as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau who provide invaluable support for residents.
· Consideration of a feasibility study (possibly funded from the rural prosperity fund) to provide a mobile advice service to support those in rural locations throughout the district where vulnerable residents may be unable to access public transport and require face to face advice and support – The Service Lead: Communities and Wellbeing reported that the council’s work with Citizen’s Advice Bureau had enabled them to increase their outreach work to service in rural areas and work with existing partners and activities targeted at vulnerable groups. Continued dialogue on this matter would take place.
Councillor Becker introduced the report which provided an update on the on-going cost of living help and support that has been and continues to be delivered by the council as a result of the economic crisis, the impact on everyday living costs for residents and organisations and set out the key objectives and aims of the programme and outcomes to date. Furthermore, the report outlined the interventions that had been put in place to help since 2022 and also looked ahead to the provision of support for the future.
It was noted that a cost-of-living webpage was available on the council’s website providing the latest up to date information for those requiring support and that the work of the Social Inclusion Partnership and the outcomes of the Summit held in November 2022 continuing to bring organisations together to address the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and wider inclusion goals.
The Town Centre and Community Manager reported on partnership working across council teams and with stakeholders and advised that the council had provided £60k in financial support through emergency grant funding to organisations that supported over 5,000 vulnerable residents across a range of beneficiaries and additional practical support was given to Citizen’s Advice Bureau and used further financial support to strengthen their resources and increase capacity. This also improves their business case for funding from other organisations going forward.
The committee proceeded to ask questions and comment on the following matters which were responded to by the Cabinet Member, the Service Lead: Community and Wellbeing and other relevant officers.
(i) Continued discussions with local Parish Council’s to work with hard-to-reach vulnerable residents, particularly in rural communities, to bring services to isolated people.
(ii) Plans to run another cost-of-living summit – it was noted that the social inclusion partnership would now address this matter going forward.
(iii) Continuing to work together internally and externally to avoid duplication of work and improve services for residents.
(iv) The empowerment given to organisations to create important legacy outcomes.
At the conclusion of debate, the committee thanked officers for the positive shared working practices across a variety of council teams and with partners to help deliver support and advice to residents in need of assistance during this difficult time.
That the contents of the report be received, and the comments raised by the committee, as summarised above, be noted.