Colleague claims she is hearing similar reports every day
Cost-of-living forcing people to do without basics. Picture: NEA
December 16, 2022
A Wandsworth councillor is claiming that a landlord turned a pregnant mother-of-two’s heating off while she attempted to keep her children warm in the cost-of-living crisis. Labour councillor Sarmila Varatharaj said Wandsworth residents are “struggling to meet their basic everyday needs”.
Councillor Varatharaj said she passed a long queue of residents outside local food bank Tooting Community Kitchen on her way to the Wandsworth Council meeting on Wednesday (14 December). She said, “The line of people waiting to access the food bank went all the way down to the station.
“Earlier this week, I was at Home Start, an amazing organisation doing great work with our families. I met a mum-of-two with children under the age of five. She told me her landlord has switched off the heating. She can’t keep her children warm and herself – and she is pregnant.”
Councillor Varatharaj’s comments come after the new Labour administration was quizzed over grants given to charitable organisations to help residents through the cost-of-living crisis.
Conservative councillor Aled Richards-Jones said the administration had removed bids for the Capacity Building Fund – for organisations to help residents with the cost-of-living – from “cross-party scrutiny” by making them under a standing order rather than through the grants sub-committee.
Councillor Richards-Jones said, “it is possible for funding bids to be scrutinised by the grants sub-committee without causing undue delay to payments” at ad hoc meetings. He called for bids for the new Warm Spaces and Food Grant to be brought to the committee.
In a written reply, Labour councillor Kemi Akinola said the authority had used an SO83(A) order to award the grants “more quickly” in response to the “emergency situation”. She said details of the grants awarded are publicly available and added that future decisions on the Warm Spaces and Food Grant taken under the standing order will be reported back to committee.
At the meeting, she said the grants had been “awarded with due diligence and in a fair and transparent process”. She added: “The opposition themselves awarded several hundred Jubilee grants without any scrutiny using the very same mechanism that we are using now when they were in power.”
She later said councillors are hearing stories such as that of the pregnant mother’s heating being turned off “every day, we’re all receiving these emails”. She said, “Charity organisations, and any business to be honest, they can’t really start work without the funds there and available for them to do it. So it’s important that we hand out these grants without any haste.”
Charlotte Lilywhite - Local Democracy Reporter