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News release from: 21/02/2023

Council proposes over £200,000 of further cost of living support

Council proposes over £200,000 of further cost of living support

Plans for a further cost of living support package for residents, worth more than £200,000, have been published by South Cambridgeshire District Council.

The proposals include a roadshow of cost of living talks, support to transform some Warm Hubs into Community Wellbeing Hubs, increasing awareness of Council Tax support, more free energy saving appliances and the creation of a South Cambridgeshire Sustainable Food Network.

The ideas are outlined in a report published by the District Council yesterday (Monday 20 February 2023) and will be discussed at the Scrutiny and Overview Committee on the final day of the month, and then at Cabinet on 20 March.

The proposals build-on a package of almost £400,000 of support which was agreed by the Council in November last year. Just over half of that initial funding came from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Integrated Care System (ICS) to support community-based programmes tackling prevention and community engagement.

These new support plans announced by the Council look to set-out what could happen next. The ICS have indicated that they will provide further grant funding that the Council will bid for, to continue projects for the next financial year, which will continue to focus on prevention of poor health resulting from financial hardship and living in cold homes. All the additional initial work can be funded using available earmarked Council reserves.

The roadshow of cost of living talks, organised in partnership with parish councils, would see a rolling programme of events that are designed to highlight support available to the most vulnerable. This would improve reach and uptake of grants and other support services that many don’t know are available to them.

25 Warm Hubs have been running across South Cambridgeshire this winter, with more than 2,000 visits recorded up to the start of February. Run by Cambridgeshire ACRE, they are free cosy spaces which residents of all ages can visit to socialise, work, and catch up with friends. Some could evolve into Community Wellbeing Hubs, offering more services.

A large-scale Council Tax communications campaign is being proposed, to increase the number of eligible people who are aware of, and subsequently claim, financial help towards their Council Tax bill. More deprived areas would be targeted with communications, to help inform people of their potential eligibility.

There are also plans to expand South Cambridgeshire District Council’s scheme to provide free energy saving appliances to those residents who are only just about managing, next winter. So far this winter, more than 300 South Cambridgeshire residents have been provided with either a slow cooker, electric blanket, or both by the Council. A charitable giving fund, which residents who are able to can donate towards as part of this scheme, has raised nearly £2,000 and remains open.

Finally, funds are also being proposed to help create a South Cambridgeshire Sustainable Food Network. The idea would be to link-up all the existing foodbanks in the district, creating a network of support for each other – with the over-riding aim of distributing food that would otherwise end-up being thrown away. The network would also look to create links with local farmers to donate excess food that is not suitable for supermarkets, encourage communities to grow fresh vegetables for the most vulnerable, and promote healthy eating and more plant-based diets. This network would be a key part of the emerging South Cambridgeshire Sustainable Food Strategy, which is being developed by the District Council and set to be discussed by its Climate and Environment Advisory Group in April.

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Communities, Cllr Bill Handley, said: “More than five months after we declared a cost of living crisis, most people continue to suffer in one way or another as a result of rising costs that show no sign of coming down. People on what you would consider good incomes are being impacted – as well as those who were already under financial pressure. We want to help prevent more residents being pushed deeper into hardship and poverty. So, our aim with this fresh package of support would be to continue the momentum that we have built-up this winter, which has received overwhelmingly positive feedback. This is now about looking at the next steps that we as a District Council can take to ensure we are targeting the right support at those who we know need it most. Our aim is to progress some of the initial support mechanisms that we established – such as our Warm Hubs – into longer term, self-sustaining community assistance, as well as exploring exciting new ways to help such as plans to create a South Cambridgeshire Sustainable Food Network.”

These proposals will be discussed by South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Scrutiny and Overview Committee on Tuesday 28 February before Cabinet Members make a decision about the proposals at their meeting on Monday 20 March.