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Council agrees a £14.5m investment package

by Gemma Melling

Investments totalling over £14.5m have been approved by Knowsley Council, to support residents who need help the most, support the borough’s recovery from the COVID pandemic and invest into essential services that residents value and need.

The investment includes the establishment of a £2.5m Knowsley Better Together Hardship Fund, a £6.4m Knowsley Better Together Recovering Fund and a further £5.6m to support the delivery of essential council services and support to residents.

The Knowsley Better Together Hardship Fund aims to support residents that need it the most in what has been an incredibly difficult year. Residents have had to cope with job losses, being furloughed, home schooling, financial pressures, illness and bereavement, as well as the impact the pandemic has had on people’s mental health and wellbeing. The fund will include help with essential items such as food and heating, as well as debt and benefit advice, housing support and access to jobs and training. The fund is due to launch in April 2021.

The Knowsley Better Together Recovery Fund will support businesses and the town centres to once again thrive, deliver climate change and environmental improvements, supporting residents and protective vulnerable people, supporting residents into employment and training opportunities and help sustain and transform key services.

Investment in council services and support to residents has also been agreed including counselling services for children affected by domestic abuse, addressing flooding and drainage issues across the borough and investment in assistive technology and Occupational Therapists to support residents to stay in their own homes for longer.

Cllr Jayne Aston, Cabinet Member for Resources, said: “It has been a particularly challenging year all round, but our finances have taken a significant hit as we responded to the pandemic. Through effective lobbying for fairer funding, we are in a better position than we were only a few months ago, but we will continue to lobby the Government to ensure the funding we need to support our residents and businesses through this pandemic is secured.

“Through our robust financial management and decision making, we have been able to allocate investments to support our recovery, supporting our residents, our businesses and the wider borough. Funds are allocated where they are needed the most and where they will have the most impact to ensure residents who need support get it and for our economy to once again thrive.

“Throughout this pandemic, one thing that has been evident is the resilience and the desire to help others within our communities. It really does show Knowsley Better Together in practice – everyone coming together for the benefit of Knowsley and it’s residents.”

Also at the Council meeting on Wednesday, 3 March 2021, , support for the lowest paid workers was endorsed with funding included to ensure all employees are paid at least the Real Living Wage rate of £9.50 per hour.

Council also endorsed the recommendation to increase Council Tax by 4.99%, of which 3% will contribute to the costs of providing Adult Social Care with the remaining 1.99% funding the additional demand and costs for essential services.

Cllr Jayne Aston added “It’s also important that our lower paid workers are recognised and supported and I’m delighted that Council has tonight endorsed the Living Wage payment of £9.50 per hour.

“Whilst we have to reluctantly increase Council Tax, in line with Government funding expectations, the majority of this increase (3%) will be ploughed back into Adult Social Care which is currently under immense pressure as it supports residents to remain at home for as long as possible as well as supporting our local hospitals to discharge patients quickly to meet the demands of increasing hospital admissions.

“This council has worked tirelessly throughout this challenging time and our robust approach to long-term financial planning and economic growth has enabled us to invest in those essential services that our residents value and need, without the need for us to make savings or cut services. Quite an achievement and indeed a minor miracle in these unprecedented times.”