Sefton Council’s Cabinet has endorsed actions planned to help the borough’s residents and business cope with the growing Cost of Living crisis.
Sefton Council has already set up a dedicated Cost of Living section on its website, at www.sefton.gov.uk/cost-of-living where people can quickly find information on a range of topics including Fuel Bills and Energy Saving and help with Rent and Council Tax. Health & Wellbeing, Foodbanks & Food Pantries and Jobs & Volunteering are also covered.
It is also producing an accompanying easy-to-print factsheet detailing ways people can get support and advice.
It also reminds people there is free computer and Wi-Fi access at Southport Library and at all other Sefton Council Libraries for people who don’t have access to an online computer or smartphone.
Additionally, the council is committed to showing strong leadership and working with partner organisations to reduce the impact of the crisis on local people.
It will work to protect local jobs and incomes by providing what support it can to companies and organisations across the borough if they are struggling to stay in business in the face of steeply rising operational costs.
And the council will continue to work at the highest levels nationally to influence policies towards tackling poverty. It will also highlight the harmful physical and mental health impacts that poverty can have and how young people’s long-term life chances are restricted as a result.
In addition, the council is producing a quick reference factsheet that can be printed off as well as downloaded, providing people with quick links on where to go for support and advice.
Introducing the report to at the meeting, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing Cllr Trish Hardy, said:
“I’m shocked and heartbroken that Sefton Council has this report on the agenda.
“The social security framework and welfare state in this country has been hollowed out – expecting people to survive on low paid, long hours with no protection and nothing more than a zero-hour contract. Incomes and prospects have been routinely downgraded – not matching prices and bills. Central Government safety nets have more holes than net.
“And now this cost-of-living crisis. We use the word crisis a lot in the UK – I feel we are teetering on the edge of a catastrophe. Some of the families and residents of this borough cannot withstand this storm being unleashed on them.
“Inflation in the UK stands at around 10%, the highest level in 40 years, which means people across Sefton and the UK are facing steeply rising prices in shops, for basics and for vital services.
“In April, households across Sefton and the UK faced a 54% price hike in their gas and electricity bills, the equivalent of an average £700 extra per year. We haven’t even had a Winter at these prices before we are told the cost must increase again.
“In October, those bills are forecast to go up by a further 82% meaning the average energy bill could shoot up to £3,582.
“A further rise in January could see those bills top £4,000 next year.
“These are eye-watering figures that are going to affect the finances of all but the most affluent households across the country. And let’s not forget these so-called caps are no such thing – many households in Sefton will face bills much higher – not because of posh houses but because families with disabilities, babies living in poorly insulated homes will have to spend more to heat badly insulted homes. Let’s not forget that the Tories have also slashed funding for home insulations.
“In Sefton, where over 20% – or around 58,000 residents – live in the poorest areas, those effects are going to be huge. In some cases, unthinkable.
“Unthinkable the pressure being felt by people who are already struggling to make ends meet and are having to make difficult decisions.
“By people who use foodbanks but are worried about the cost of cooking the food they collect from them.
“By people who have struggled to afford uniforms to send their children back to school in.
“By pensioners where the cost of energy is over half the UK state pension by January.”
By businesses contemplating their survival and having to close businesses and lose local jobs
“When they know these frightening price hikes are just around the corner and that there is nothing, they can do about it.
“Recently we found out that debt is already soaring on credit cards. I just pray that people don’t turn to loan sharks and find themselves hocked up with debt with people who are mercenary at best and criminal at worst. But when you are cold and hungry with nowhere to turn, I can see how it will happen.
“That is why it is vital that Sefton Council, working with its partners, does all it can to help and support our communities.
“Our officers and our partners are already working to develop a range of ideas and proposals to support local people in crisis.
“We are working on ways through our website for instance to highlight the wide range of support that is currently available.
“Next month’s Cabinet will be considering the Council’s Child Poverty Strategy which will be underpinned by a partnership Action Plan.
“And we will do what we can to prevent organisations and businesses across our Borough crumbling under the weight of rocketing outgoings, which would further threaten local jobs and incomes.
“We will also continue to work at the highest levels nationally to influence policies towards tackling poverty and highlight the harmful physical and mental health impacts that that poverty can have and how those young people’s long-term life chances are restricted as a result.”