Wandsworth Reveals £5 Million Cost-of-living Assistance Plan

Money set aside for council to work with partners and charities

Cllr Simon Hogg, "We are not prepared to let anyone fall through the cracks"
Cllr Simon Hogg, "We are not prepared to let anyone fall through the cracks"

A further range of measures which aim to help Wandsworth residents deal with rising costs has been approved by the borough’s finance committee.

The council says the amount being spent on these measures will total £5million and the money will be used to support a range of organisations, projects and initiatives with an emphasis on partnership working. The spending was approved by the council committee this Thursday evening (29 September) and is subject to the approval of the council Executive at a meeting on 10 October.

£1 million is being given to The Wandsworth Discretionary Social Fund and all eligible households are to get a one-off Winter Cost of Living Payment of up to £150.

The extra cash for the Wandsworth Discretionary Social Fund will provide additional assistance to the borough’s most vulnerable residents. This includes crisis payments such as food vouchers and fuel grants to help people in emergency situations, as well as community care grants to support vulnerable households.

Funding will go towards various projects including £185,000 to the Wandsworth Citizen’s Advice Bureau to help them employ more advisers.

Mary-Ann Foxwell, Chief Executive of Citizen’s Advice Wandsworth welcomed the news saying, “At Citizens Advice Wandsworth we are seeing more residents than ever coming to us experiencing real hardship because of the cost-of-living crisis, and we know that the situation for many is set to worsen. We’re delighted that Wandsworth Council is supporting us to provide a dedicated cost of living service which will enable us to give additional information, advice and support to local people who are struggling in the face of unprecedented price rises.”

The council says that further money will be channelled into supporting businesses, health initiatives, housing support, employment, and financial schemes.

Council Leader Simon Hogg said: “The new Council administration is absolutely committed to making sure it does everything possible to help people through this winter and beyond. We are not prepared to let anyone fall through the cracks.

“We have set aside this money to work with our partners and local charities to help provide the best support we can for those people who are struggling as a result of the national cost of living crisis.

“This will include an additional £1m being given to The Wandsworth Discretionary Social Fund which will go straight into the pockets of our most vulnerable residents. These plans will also not affect your council tax. We will keep the same low council tax – this is the right thing to do as it is a tax that hits those on low incomes the most.

“We are determined to make a difference and as we are seeing with policies such as free school uniforms for struggling families our council administration is already making an impact.”

The Council has already announced a range of initiatives to help people during the cost-of-living crisis such as a new School Uniform Support Scheme which means families struggling financially will not have to pay for school uniforms when they transition to their next school, with more than a thousand children benefiting.

An online Cost-of-Living Hub has also been put together on its website including details on grants to help with fuel bills, advice on reducing bills, information on benefits and what to do in a crisis, help available for families, where to get mental health support and links to community organisations and charities that can help.

To support this work the Council will be convening a Cost-of-Living Commission to hear from residents about how their lives are being impacted and help shape what further action can be taken to support them.

Councillor Hogg added, “At the core of all these proposals is our commitment to work with others to find the best way to help our residents through this crisis. Our message to people who are struggling is this council will not desert you and we will help you find the support you need. We’ll work with all of our partners to ensure we have a joined-up approach to help people through the coming months and beyond.”

Cllr Peter Graham, Conservative Spokesperson for Finance on Wandsworth Council said, “We are pleased that the Council will continue to support the Wandsworth Discretionary Social Fund, which was a Conservative initiative. However, the £5 million from reserves is separate and unallocated. Labour councillors couldn’t tell us how it would be spent, then voted again for decisions to be made behind closed doors. We all recognise the cost-of-living pressures but helping is one thing — and hiding is another.

“The Conservative administration froze council tenants’ rents and energy bills. Labour is preparing to increase both, while disowning their promises on council tax. There is massive government support for Wandsworth residents through the Energy Price Guarantee. Sadly, that isn’t being matched by the Labour council.”

The recommendations of the Finance Committee will be considered and decided by the Executive on Monday, 10 October.

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October 2, 2022