Pledge of continued support for residents during cost of living crisis

Essex County Council Leader Kevin Bentley outside County Hall in Chelmsford

Today our leader set out our continued commitment to help support residents with a series of measures to help tackle the cost of living crisis.

At a meeting of the Full Council today (Tuesday 12 July) Leader Cllr Kevin Bentley set out the action we have already taken to support residents, acknowledging there is more work to do.

Among the ways the Council is helping families in Essex include:

  • Financial Wellbeing – a series of test and learn projects to enable people to improve their financial wellbeing through positive decisions
  • Holiday Activity Clubs – free holiday clubs during the summer holiday, at least 4 hours per day of fun, nutritional education, at least one meal and mentoring and support for the whole family. This summer 200 clubs will take place across Essex
  • Community Challenge Fund – provides small grants for groups to develop a vision for their local community and take forward projects that will help them to achieve it
  • Social Supermarkets – help families on low incomes buy food and household essentials at lower prices, beginning in Tendring and Basildon
  • Pedal Power – expansion across Essex to provide bikes to those on low incomes
  • Digital Inclusion Programme – to identify and address the drivers of digital exclusion

While we remain committed to the goals of our Levelling Up strategy, a long term programme of work, the issues it is looking to address have been exacerbated by the ongoing impacts of inflation and the rising price of essentials.

Residents across the county are feeling the strain with more than 76,000 Essex households, about 12%, classed as being in fuel poverty and this number expected to rise further. The rise of inflation means pay has also fallen in real terms in the last 12 months.

These issues are having a particularly profound impact on working families, single parent households, women over the age of 65 and young adults aged between 19 and 25 as well as unpaid carers or those who have children with disabilities.

ECC is already doing its bit to help with action through initiatives such as the Council Tax Rebate Scheme, the Household Support Fund, and the Essential Living Fund.

These programmes have supported thousands of vulnerable and struggling residents with cash payments for food, fuel, and essential living costs. This is on top of the support already provided by frontline services in areas like children’s and adult social care.

We have also been working on ways to help people to reduce their energy bills and be more environmental conscious at the same time, through Warm Homes Essex, which provides advice and access to funding for improvements to reduce your energy usage.

It has been six months since we launched our Levelling Up White Paper and the council has visited its six priority areas in Essex, making a first wave of interventions to support:

• Good jobs
• A high-quality environment
• Educational attainment and skills
• Healthy and active lifestyles
• Strong and resilient families and communities

At the meeting, Cllr Bentley said ECC was committed to doing all it can to help its residents and stressed the need for partnership working and co-operation across the public sector.

He said: “This is still a very moving picture, with the situation likely to worsen for many residents as we move into autumn and winter. The Government are very alive to this and are looking at ways to further support people through this crisis. I expect we will see more announcements in the coming months from Government and through the Autumn Statement.

“While there are certain things not in our control I remain confident that there is more we can do in Essex. While we monitor how this situation develops over the summer, and assess the ways the interventions from Government and others will help. I intend to propose a summit with our partners across the public sector, beyond just local government, to make sure we join up and do not duplicate our efforts to make sure our work has the greatest impact in supporting people through this crisis.

“I’d like to ask our Members for their help as well. I would like to understand how this crisis is affecting your residents in your divisions. You can help highlight the pressures in even greater detail than we already have and begin to demonstrate the gaps we could fill.

“In return we will try to equip you with the tools to help. We can help you to signpost our residents to support when it is available, and where it is not we will take that back and look at what more we can do.”