Home Cost of living support Special Council considers cost of living challenge

Special Council considers cost of living challenge

by Gemma Melling

A Special Council meeting was convened tonight (Wednesday 7 December) to provide an update on the Council’s Financial Strategy and its response to the cost of living crisis.

Knowsley Council’s financial position is currently impacted by significant rises in prices of goods, wage inflation, increases in demand and the Government’s announcements regarding local government funding.

Despite the significant challenges arising from the national economy, the Council remains in a relatively stable financial position for next year, although deficits are forecast for future years. This relatively stable position has been made possible by the council’s ambitious programme for economic growth, the sound approach to financial management and decision making, and effective long-term decisions relating to Council Tax, all of which underpin the council’s financial strategy. (You can read more about the Council’s medium-term financial forecast here.)

A key priority for the council is supporting communities through the cost of living crisis and a £9m support package is in place – £3.4m from the Knowsley Better Together Hardship Fund alongside £5.6m from the Government’s Household Support Fund. There is a range of help and support here on Knowsley News which includes where to access food, heating, essentials, debt advice, addiction support and advice for businesses too. The £9m support package is helping residents with:

  • Providing free school meals to 8,500 children during school holidays
  • Food and other essentials are available through a variety of locations and groups across the borough
  • Support for residents on pre-paid fuel meters and fuel support for residents who pay via direct debit
  • Providing energy efficiency advice and support to residents
  • Bespoke advice for those suffering poor mental health due to their finances
  • Support to schools to help their most vulnerable pupils and families
  • Establishment of Warm Hubs in the Council’s five libraries – open six days a weeks
  • Support for Registered Social Landlord tenants on a range of issues including heating and food supplies
  • Tailored support for residents receiving support from Social Care services

To support businesses, business health seminars have been delivered providing advice and practical support to specific sectors and businesses.

As well as supporting residents and businesses, the Council has also reviewed the support it provides to its own staff, particularly the lowest paid. The Living Wage pay increase is being paid four months’ earlier (usually paid in April 2023 but will be paid from December 2022). The local government pay award has been processed expeditiously and the Council is supporting staff through an assistance programme, providing a wealth of help and support around mental health and debt management.

Cllr Jayne Aston, Cabinet Member for Resources, said “We know it’s an extremely challenging time for our communities and we are doing all that we can to ensure they have the right support at the right time. Given the insufficient support from the Government, we have bolstered our own Knowsley Better Together Hardship Fund to ensure our communities know that they are not alone and help and support is available.”

Given the financial pressures the Council faces, it is continuing to lobby the Government for fairer funding, ensuring it is aligned to need. Demand for services in areas such as Knowsley is high and is increasing, and Government funding needs to reflect this.

Cllr Jayne Aston added “The national Government’s unfair and unrealistic expectation that local authorities can respond to increased demand without the appropriate financial support is completely unacceptable. We will continue to lobby the Government to review how their funding is allocated and ensure areas like Knowsley get the funding they need.”

Also at Council tonight, a Notice of Motion was passed which confirmed that no increases will be paid to Members’ Allowances in 2022/2023 and instead, the £20,000 budget set aside to fund the anticipated increase will be used to pay for additional costs of living support for care leavers.

Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council, said “We know that the cost of living crisis is having an impact on everyone and our care leavers need our support more than ever during these difficult times. They have been in the care of the Council and are now living independently, without the support of family and I’m delighted that my colleagues have agreed to forego an increase in allowances and use the funding where if truly is needed.

“It will make such a huge difference to our care leavers, supporting them to live independently but above all, ensure that they know they are not alone.”