Financial support offered in Greater Manchester in winter
Town halls will target funding to those most at risk or in need, provide financial support and advice – and open libraries as “heat banks”.
Households in Greater Manchester are preparing for a long and harsh winter which it is feared will leave many choices between heating and eating.
The Bank of England has warned that a typical house will pay almost £300 a month for its energy from October, with the price cap set to rise by 70%.
Meanwhile, the price of food, fuel and other unavoidable costs continues to soar, with inflation now expected to hit 13%.
The charity National Energy Action predicts that one in three consumers could be pushed into fuel poverty if energy bills rise as much as expected.
Against such a grim backdrop, Greater Manchester councils are already putting plans in place to help their residents through the chilly and worrying months ahead.
Among the measures being implemented are ‘heat banks’ – spaces where people who cannot afford to heat their homes can go to stay warm.
Town halls will also target funding to those most at risk or in need, provide financial support and advice, and implement broader poverty reduction strategies.
Below is how each local authority in the region plans to deal with the worsening cost of living crisis this winter.
Bury Council has no plans to introduce heat banks at this time, instead focusing on identifying those who need them most and ‘proactively assisting’ them in their own homes.
City Hall bosses this week approved a new ‘cost of living/anti-poverty’ strategy, which includes a ‘highly targeted’ allocation of more than £1.5m in household support funding. There is also an additional £340,000 to support people in specific ways – such as a £100 payment to all pensioners on the council’s tax benefit.
Other funding pots include a hardship fund for retirees and those of working age, as well as support for families through free school meals during the holidays and grants for school uniforms.
Councilor Richard Gold, Cabinet Member for Communities and Finance, said: ‘The people of Bury have gone through a very difficult time over the past two years with Covid and are now facing huge challenges with the cost of life.
“This is due to high levels of inflation, with wages and benefits not keeping up with corresponding price increases. This is particularly noticeable with regard to rising food and fuel costs, which have been driven by national and international factors. These pressures are not felt in the same way and have a disproportionate impact on some households.
“Our post-pandemic recovery plan must be more than just helping people through the daily struggle. We also need to put in place measures that will help people become more resilient over the long term. »
The bosses of the town halls are considering a “wide range” of measures to support residents throughout the winter.
These are expected to be firmed up over the next two weeks, but will include existing programs such as the Money Skills service, various grants and local social benefits.
Although there are currently no heat bank projects, people have been using borough libraries for warmth for quite some time now and this is expected to increase this winter.
The chiefs are aware the pressures will ‘rise’ this winter, but were unable to go into specifics about potential projects.
However, the situation is being closely monitored, with the authority saying it is currently a “watch file”.
Bosses are discussing what to do after a ‘cost of living summit’ was held last week.
Further details are expected shortly, with council leader Councilor Amanda Chadderton admitting the situation people are facing is “worse than at any time during the pandemic”.
“Times are tough for everyone, but it’s the lowest-income residents who are feeling the effects of rising prices the most,” she said.
“Wages haven’t changed and for some they haven’t kept pace with inflation for years. This is especially true for key workers – the same people we depended on during the pandemic.
“I know the people of Oldham are going to make some tough decisions this winter, if they aren’t already, and if the government doesn’t step in with a short term plan then we have to.”
The council said it would continue to work with partners, the community and the voluntary sector to support those households most in need – as it has done since the start of the pandemic.
According to a senior adviser, this could involve some form of heat banks.
Deputy head of council Daalat Ali said: We are developing a joint plan to support most at-risk households during the winter period and will discuss how people could access warm buildings.
Council bosses say they are concerned about the impact rising energy prices will have on residents and are already predicting the cold autumn and winter months.
The authority wants to help people be able to stay warm and safe in their own homes. However, it is also working on plans for a “warm welcome” in its buildings – such as walkways, libraries and recreation centres.
Councilor Sharmina August, Member responsible for Inclusive Economy, Anti-Poverty and Equalities, said: “So far we have received 5,000 applications for the Household Support Fund through Salford Assist to help the people. The fund provides assistance in the form of food, fuel, gas and electricity to residents in financial difficulty. If you are having difficulty, please contact us for assistance.
Walkways across Salford are already open Monday to Thursday until 10pm and offer a range of activities and services.
Council August added: ‘We want to provide a diverse range of activities such as exercise sessions, cooking demonstrations and classes where people can join in, learn something new and make friends. All details are yet to be confirmed, but as soon as they are we will announce them.
Stockport Council says it is “extremely aware” of the impact of the cost of living crisis on residents – and heat banks are among the measures it is considering in its bid to tackle the problem.
Councilor Malcolm Allan, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, said: “We have already undertaken a number of initiatives to help our residents, both with finance and advice, and we have a number plans for the coming months.
“We are also working with the third sector and supporting them in their vital work where we can. The full board has unanimously passed a motion in recent weeks that detailed further actions. We will continue to look at other initiatives and heat banks are one of them. »
Tameside Council has confirmed that its libraries will be available for residents to keep warm this winter as the cost of living crisis takes hold.
A spokesperson for the authority said: ‘We take this issue very seriously and are considering all available options to support residents, although we know this will be a very difficult time.
“A first port of call as a place to warm up would be our libraries, but we are exploring what other options could also be made available. We will publish details of all locally available support. There is also the Household Support Fund available to residents who are eligible for assistance.
Household Support Fund information sessions are available for Tameside residents on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am to 12.30pm on Level 1 of Tameside One, Ashton-Under-Lyne.
Anyone wanting information or help with the app can attend. Those attending an accompaniment visit are requested to bring a bank statement for the last three months. The scheme is a limited fixed fund available until September 30, 2022 or until funds are exhausted.
Town hall leaders say they are “working hard to ensure that the impact of the cost of living crisis is mitigated for our residents, especially for the most vulnerable households”.
A spokesperson said: “A series of measures are currently being studied in anticipation of the autumn and winter period, including the potential identification of warm locations which could benefit the whole of the community.”
Wigan Council has announced it is setting up heat banks as its ‘Warm Welcome Spaces’ scheme.
Councilor Chris Ready, Portfolio Holder for Communities and Neighborhoods, said: ‘We know that the rising cost of living is impacting people, and the council is committed to providing as much help and support as possible.
“We want to make sure people can stay warm and healthy this winter and we know some may struggle to get the heating on as energy prices are set to rise further.
“That’s why we’re setting up ‘warm welcome spaces’, where people can go and sit in a warm place for free.
“Working with local partners, we aim to make these ‘banks’ as widespread as possible in the borough, and we will announce more details soon.”