Agenda item

What the Councils are doing to help with the cost of living crisis

To consider a report by the Director for Digital, Sustainability and Resources, copy attached as item 10


The Committee had a report before it attached as item 10,  a copy of which had been circulated to all Members, a copy of which is attached to a signed copy of these minutes.


A Member asked, “The Equalities Impact Assessment (EIA) for this work states: those already most socially disadvantaged are likely to be those most at risk of not coping including groups such as those protected through the Equality Act 2010. What analysis is being done to capture data around these protected groups in deprivation who are seeking help and given the funded community groups (since 2021) have had over £142k are they capturing data on this?


Response - a further, more detailed Cost of Living EIA assessment had been done that set out actions to engage with a range of diverse communities in Adur and Worthing. Work on this had commenced. A data profile for Worthing had been produced which identified more vulnerable communities using national and local data sets (for example the Councils’ own LIFT data). This was due for updating with 2021 census data. The profile for Adur was also pending 2021 census data. A Cost of Living Data Sharing Working Group had been set up with external partners to look at ways to collate and share aggregate data in order to build a more comprehensive understanding of where resources should be targeted to meet need. 


A Member asked, “Working with providers locally (page 60): How confident are you that Southern Water engages effectively for the outcomes of this plan?


Response - Southern Water had been contacted requesting information about the schemes available to support people in managing their water bills or water related debt. They were also asked to discuss with the Councils other possible measures that could be taken. There had been no reply to date and this needed to be re-actioned. They said that Southern Water were part of a bigger discussion with a number of other organisations and bringing them together in partnership.


A member asked, “Target financial support where it's most effective (page 61): For the support to be inclusive of all residents, what alternative options are available to support those with a lack of access to online information?


Response - The Cost of Living Information Leaflet included the telephone numbers of all key support services, as well as their websites, so people without online access are able to contact them. There was also a digital inclusion action in both CoL Action Plans, and work would be done with West Sussex County Council’s (WSCC) Digital Inclusion Officer to identify support strategies for people to access online services. A number of ‘in person’ community engagement events had taken place to support them in sign posting residents to the help that is on offer. These events invited a number of other agencies and organisations to help meet the needs and requirements of those who needed assistance.


A Member asked, “Funding and resources (page 64) - What approach will be developed to crowdfunding opportunities with local businesses to address the cost of living impacts?


Response - Just Giving sites for Adur and Worthing were proposed with a tentative launch date of 9 December. This was subject to Cabinet Member endorsement and ratification. Funds raised would be used to support groups in the Adur and Worthing food network in relation to food provision and hardship.


A Member asked, “Re Cost of Living (Worthing JSC Sub-Committee on 6 September 2022 - JOSC Agenda page 44 - Paragraph 3.5 of the report Worthing JSC Sub-Committee COLC report. Regarding the statement ‘investment in infrastructure and support to food groups since 2021 of over £142k, with a further £25k to be allocated in 2022/23.’

How much of the £142K was allocated directly to Worthing food groups for food and how much for infrastructure excluding any monies to WSCC Comm Hub?


Response - a total of £98,025 had been granted to Worthing Food Groups for food supplies, through Contain Outbreak Management Fund (COMF) Round 2 and Worthing Borough Council CoL funding. Funding was allocated through a small grants round and allocation according to need/demand. All funding was administered through Community Works with Food Groups agreeing allocation criteria and eligibility.


£70,653.20 had been spent on support other than food supplies, this funding was allocated to groups through a small grants round and allocation according to need/demand. All funding was administered through Community Works with Food Groups agreeing allocation criteria and eligibility. Funding was spent on the following:

Signposting leaflet - printing costs 

A shed for an allotment

Rental for 6 months for a food pantry and community fridge (small grants bid from a collective of Worthing food groups)

A ‘Food First Liaison Manager’ post

A Food First event

Food Insecurity Mapping of Worthing

Community Food Network Administration Support 


A member asked, “Regarding the statement ‘In 2022/23 all available COMF funding is being used to address the Cost of Living impacts. £25k will go directly to food groups and £75k is being used to develop infrastructure and support delivery of a cost of living programme of work.’ 

Bearing in mind that the local independent food banks are struggling to manage demand and only have enough funds to last until Christmas, can you explain if:


The government set the criteria to split the funds in this way, so that only a quarter goes to the food groups. If not, who made this decision, WSCC or WBC?


Response - an additional COMF allocation of £100,000 was made available to Adur & Worthing council  in 2022/2023, this was in addition to previous COMF funding which had already been made available to food groups. The decision to provide an additional amount of £25,000 to food groups was intended to provide urgent help and support to groups immediately with local demand.  


Decisions about the remaining funding had not yet been confirmed.  However, given the need for food was ongoing during those difficult times, there was a need to develop a longer term and more sustainable approach to how local groups could be supported, in the context of the cost of living action plan.  Therefore some of this resource was being used for infrastructure; to support groups to be more sustainable and therefore make best use of those resources. These decisions were being made jointly between Members and senior officers, in accordance with their cost of living action plan


It was also important to add the role of WSCC here too who had also been providing direct funding support to some local groups.


A Member asked, “I am aware that food groups need to be sustainable but if they don't have enough food or funds to continue then they won't be sustainable anyway, so no amount of infrastructure will help.


What type of infrastructure is being funded.  Please exclude any short term solutions such as 6 months for premises or a short staff contract because they cannot be judged as sustainable if they are only short term. If this hasn't been decided yet please give an outline of possible infrastructure solutions?


Response - further to the response above, these decisions had not yet been finalised. However some of the infrastructure being developed included premises for groups (still being sourced), a JustGiving platform and campaign, and the ability to deliver work locally in different neighbourhoods in Worthing.  These proposals were still being worked up by officers for Members with detailed options and briefings for each proposal. 


A member asked, “when Father James spoke to the Full Council to ask for funding for food for our residents in need, we were told by the Portfolio Holder for Communities and Wellbeing that the Council will not provide short term help. This is a cost of living crisis. A crisis requires an immediate response to address immediate need. I’m going to keep reframing the same question on Food. Community groups who feed our residents are running low on resources. Why are we only giving £25k across Adur. What more are you going to do around food?

Response - the Council had provided more than £131,000 to support food groups in Adur; this funding supported short term support of food supplies through a small grants round, allocation of COMF and Council funding. There was an additional £25,000 made available and went to both Adur and Worthing food groups. Additionally, groups were supported through the infrastructure organisation.


Community Works which provided support for fundraising, information, networking and advice.  Importantly they had set out a full work programme through their cost of living action plan to address the wide ranging issues - beyond food - and were working with their partners to galvanise their support.


A Member asked, “Since the publication of the report and the committee meeting on 6 September the government has announced further support on energy bills and the intention to raise UC and state pensions by 10.1%. As such have you changed any of the focus and priorities within the action plan?


Response - the priorities as set out in both Action Plans had not changed following recent announcements as a clear focus of the plans were to deliver comprehensive, more sustainable initiatives that reduced costs for people and helped support their incomes in the longer term. The proposed increases for pensioners and UC recipients were welcomed. 


A Member asked, “The paper states that 'at Council a commitment was made to identify another £100,000 to support this agenda'. £58,100 has been added thanks to the underspends in the Treasury Management budget but the £41,900 which makes up £100,000 is being withdrawn from the hardship fund. Are you happy that this is another £100,000 or is there still £41,900 to be added to support the agenda?


Response - the 41,900, was a subset of the £100,000.


A Member asked, “Last month our neighbours at Horsham District Council announced that they were allocating £500,000 to help combat the cost of living crisis. How do you explain the apparently large difference in amounts pledged by Horsham District Council and Worthing Borough Council?


Response - the support referred to may have related to the plans announced by Horsham DC in June (although this was by no means certain). £300,000 was allocated to support a range of initiatives which was funded from underspend in 2021/22. Of course Worthing ended that year with an overspend of £196k which meant that they did not have the same opportunity.


Horsham DC had a very different financial position to the Councils’. Horsham District Council had reserves of over £48m. Whilst they had an overspend in the current year, this was only in the region of £230k compared to the significantly higher pressures experienced by Worthing Borough Council.


Further questions were raised about the accessibility of community engagement events. Members were told that they were inviting as many organisations and reaching out to as many people as possible.


Supporting documents: