The sharp rise in energy prices has heralded what many call a cost-of-living crisis in the UK. The effects of high inflation can also be seen elsewhere as food costs increase and various strikes occur across the country. The government has made numerous announcements and promises about cost-of-living support for those most vulnerable. The Bank of England expects inflation to remain high for the next two years, only reaching its 2% target in 2024 (Source: Bank of England).
NALC believe local (parish and town) councils can play a key role in supporting their communities through the crisis.
WHAT IS THE COST-OF-LIVING CRISIS?
The cost-of-living crisis is more than high energy bills. As the price of goods and services inflates, wages struggle to keep up. This fall in real income, income adjusted for inflation, taxes and benefits, means people have to make tough decisions about whether to heat their homes or how to feed their families. Increased inflation will affect poorer households more acutely than the average.
The UK’s Office for National Statistics found that half of the adults surveyed in 2022 bought less food in the last fortnight due to higher prices (Source: BBC News). The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated – based on the share of budgets spent on different broad product groups – the annual inflation rate for the poorest 10% of households to be 10.9% in April. By contrast, the richest 10% of households had the lowest inflation rate, at 7.9% (Source: Institute for Fiscal Studies).
Local help to access basic amenities such as food and a safe, warm space is just one of the important ways local councils can help relieve some of the financial pressures. Financial pressure can reduce access to social activity, negatively impacting people’s mental health. This is why local councils must provide opportunities for the community to participate in social activities where possible.
COST-OF-LIVING CASE STUDIES
Warm hubs and spaces
The energy crisis and inflation force families, individuals, and communities to decide between food and heating. The Warm Welcome Campaign provides access to free warm spaces in community organisations, churches, businesses, and local authorities.
Many local councils are working to create warm hubs and spaces in their communities to provide a place for people to get warm and socialise with their community. This support is essential for residents most affected by the cost-of-living crisis.
Local efforts and communities are the driving force behind setting up and running these warm spaces.
As prices soar, necessities such as food become increasingly expensive. The BBC reported that over Christmas, one in five adults had eaten either smaller portions or food past its use-by date (Source: BBC News).
Local councils have stepped in to help as families struggle to feed themselves. Many have set up community food banks to ensure that those most affected by the cost-of-living crisis have access to food.
Local volunteers, parish and town councillors, council staff, and residents are working together to help deliver goods to food banks and support them to meet the increase in demand.
New and innovative ideas
The cost-of-living crisis has inspired new and innovative ways for local councils to support their communities.
PARTNERSHIPS WITH PRINCIPAL AUTHORITIES
NALC believes partnership and collaboration between all local government levels are especially vital now. Since schemes, plans and actions to alleviate financial pressures like warm hubs and food banks are community-led. Thus, partnership and collaboration between all local government levels are essential to relieve the financial and social pressures of the cost-of-living.
WHAT CAN YOUR LOCAL COUNCIL DO?
- Provide warm spaces for your community – find your nearest warm space
- Provide clothing banks – find your nearest clothing bank
- Provide food banks – find your nearest food bank
- Share resources, support, and advice with your community
- Support community businesses in your area
- Educate where you can on schemes and grants to assist residents through the cost-of-living crisis
- Ensure everyone in the council is claiming all the benefits they can, for example, the pension credit
- Support your community's mental health by sharing the mental health resources below
- Hold a Climate Action Day to reduce your council's reliance on non-renewable energy sources
- Find your nearest warm space here or here
- Energy Bills Support Scheme – the government are giving every household £400 off their electricity bill
- Government’s cost of living support - this includes income support, support if you are disabled, childcare support and housing costs support
- Check out the government’s Help for Households campaign
- If the cost of living is affecting your mental health, you can utilise the mental health section on our website
- Use the Mind website for mental health and money support
- NHS website for urgent mental health support
- If you want to find more information or advice, you can contact your county association
- Mid Sussex – Get Help with Food
- Visit NALCs Climate Change page for information on eco-friendly energy initiatives