Council support reaching those who need it most
Having frozen general council tax for the second consecutive year, Telford & Wrekin Council has been reviewing how other cost of living support is helping those most in need.
The general council tax freeze meanings Telford and Wrekin residents pay the lowest council tax in the Midlands, saving the average home around £230 a year, and those in higher bands up to £500 a year.
This is just one of the ways the council is helping during the current cost of living crisis. At its Cabinet meeting today, Telford &Wrekin Council reviewed progress against its cost of living strategy, and agreed to proposals for further help and support for residents and businesses in the borough.
The £12millon strategy, launched in October last year, set out the council’s approach to helping residents and businesses most affected by the cost of living crisis in a range of key areas including support with energy, food, council tax, benefits and transport.
Councillor Shaun Davies (Labour), Leader of Telford &Wrekin Council, said: “Last year we froze general council tax, and promised to do so again this year. In light of the current cost of living crisis we absolutely honoured this commitment, meaning local residents are already paying the lowest council tax in the Midlands.
“In October last year we launched our £12m cost of living strategy, setting out further support and help for residents and businesses. Through this strategy, we’ve been providing targeted support for those households and businesses that need it most, so this six month review gives us the opportunity to review the strategy and make sure it’s really helping.”
In direct support of some of the most vulnerable households in the borough, the council has supported almost 10,000 (9,864) children who receive free school meals with extra supermarket vouchers to provide food during school holidays, as well as supermarket vouchers for over 3,500 (3,549)older residents too.
Since the strategy was approved, the council has provided direct financial support to 20% more households than ever before, as well as an extra £144,000 through its discretionary support scheme.
Working with local trusted partners, the council has provided funding for 35 warm spaces to be open over the winter period, offering a warm friendly social space and hot refreshments. In their busiest weeks, these have provided warm hubs for almost 800 people a week.
The council has also provided more than 4,000 free LED lightbulbs, distributed through Telford Crisis Support, Wrekin Housing Group, Citizen’s Advice Telford and Wrekin, Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service and Town and Parish Councils, to some of the borough’ most vulnerable residents. Each set of five bulb is expected to save households up to £50 on their energy bills and together the 4,000 LED bulbs will also save a total of 20,000kgs of carbon emissions, compared to traditional incandescent lightbulbs, supporting the council's vision for the borough to reach net zero too.
Telford & Wrekin Council has worked with Citizens Advice Telford and Wrekin and Age UK to offer debt and money advice sessions around the borough, with particular focus on helping older residents access all of the benefits they are entitled to, resulting in an extra £1m of eligible benefits now being claimed.
In addition to freezing general council tax increases for the second consecutive year, meaning Telford & Wrekin Council is likely to have the lowest council tax in the Midlands for the services it provides, the council has also given all households who receive council tax reduction benefits an additional discount of up to £100 to lower their bills further.
In response to the increasing demand for their help, Telford& Wrekin Council has also provided more than £90,000 in additional funding to local food banks.
In support of businesses in the borough, Telford &Wrekin Council has held ‘cost of business’ advice sessions and created a dedicated website to help businesses access information and support, as well as offering a range of energy efficiency support measures and grants, including distributing £94,000 to businesses eligible for small business rates relief.
The council has also recently funded and launched its Work Express bus service, linking key employment areas in the borough with key residential areas, with fares capped at £2 each way. In January alone, this route had almost 3,000 (2,921) users, with one passenger saving over £100 a week on alternative taxi travel.
Councillor Davies added: “It’s clear from the feedback we’re getting, and the numbers of people visiting warm spaces and money advice sessions, that this is having an impact. As a council that’s on the side of our residents and businesses we will continue to do all we can to help and support homes and businesses in the borough during this cost of living squeeze. This includes providing further financial support to Age UK to continue their work with older residents, plus additional support for foodbanks too.
“We’re seeing the positive impact this work is having, but we also know that it’s not reaching everyone that needs assistance, so will also be looking at how this support can be widened to benefit households not currently eligible for support but who we know are still struggling.”
“Much of this support would not be possible without the help and assistance of our trusted partners, so on behalf of all councillors I want to thank our partners for their ongoing support for some of our most vulnerable residents.”