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Council Cabinet calls for increased cost of living help

Lewes District Council Cabinet members and community groups are calling on the government to increase its cost of living support for residents and projects delivering vital services.

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Cabinet members have endorsed an open letter from the Cost-of-Living Partners Action Group (CoLPAG), a coalition of Lewes District Council, 25 local charities and community organisations, and Lewes District Food Partnership.

The letter raises concerns that the Autumn Budget did not include a renewal of the Household Support Fund (HSF), which has provided a lifeline to residents and frontline services supporting them over the last two years. 

Councillor Zoe Nicholson, Leader of Lewes District Council, said: "As a council, we have been doing all we can to help the most vulnerable through this cost of living crisis but many people in Lewes district are still struggling to make ends meet, so it is vital the government gives more support to residents experiencing hardship and poverty."

Measures taken by the council include raising the council tax discount to 100% for residents on the lowest incomes, establishing a safety net fund for people that missed out on some of the government's cost of living awards and financial support to foodbanks including a £20,000 donation in January.

The open letter also highlights CoLPAG's support for the Trussell Trust and Joseph Rowntree Foundation's 'Guarantee Our Essentials' campaign, which calls for the basic rate of Universal Credit to be increased to at least £120 a week; the introduction of an Essentials Guarantee within Universal Credit to ensure that the basic rate covers essentials such as food and bills; and that the basic rate is continually reviewed and set against levels of inflation and the cost of living.

Councillor Christine Robinson, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing, said: "It is distressing that 90% of people who are living on Universal Credit do not have enough money to provide essentials for themselves and their families. This is why we are supporting this important campaign and I urge others to join us."

Nancy Wilson, Lewes District Food Partnership coordinator, said: "This letter from local councillors and frontline services calling for increased action on the cost of living crisis is extremely timely with the threat to the end of the HSF approaching. Whilst the government has pledged to uplift Universal Credit in April 2024, this will still fall short of the cost of essentials and we anticipate that demand for food support will remain high. The HSF was ranked as the second most important source of funding by food projects in our area. Their ability to carry on providing vital support to communities is therefore under serious threat.

"The fact that the HSF continues to be so vital to households and the frontline services supporting them, reflects a wider failure of national government to respond to the underlying causes of the cost of living crisis, such as an adequate social security system, secure work and fair wages. Our letter encourages MPs to engage with local actors on the frontline of the cost of living crisis to tackle these underlying causes, and address the funding gap for frontline services in the interim."

Published on February 15, 2024.

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