New data shows that an estimated 20,200 families in Tower Hamlets are in serious financial difficulty, all while the Conservatives are distracted trying to fix their crumbling Government. This is why Tower Hamlets Labour is proposing a motion at a meeting of the Tower Hamlets Full Council on Wednesday 27th July 2022 calling for the new Mayor of Tower Hamlets to bring forward an Emergency Budget designed to support the borough’s poorest residents over the next two years.

The motion notes that the Cost of Living Crisis demands an urgent response from both central, regional and local government if we are to prevent even worse levels of poverty and destitution. While Mayor Rahman did approve a package to help children in families who are in receipt of free school meals, and those residents on Pension Credits, the Tower Hamlet Labour Group state that more needs to be done and is calling for specific intervention in order to protect those most vulnerable in the borough.

The motion calls for a number of measures to tackle the Cost of Living Crisis, including:

  • Increasing the “Standard Utilities Allowance” used in the calculation of Homecare charges from £5 a week back to £15 a week as of 1st April 2022;
  • Allocating a sum of £500,000 to top-up the Discretionary Housing Payment funding pot to the same level as 2021/22;
  • Allocating a £500,000 Council Tax “Hardship Fund” for residents struggling with these bills;
  • Set aside a total sum of £100,000 to award one-off grants to the voluntary food-banks operating in Tower Hamlets in 2022/23 so that they are better able to ensure no-one goes hungry in the East End this year;
  • Allocate an additional sum of £150,000 to the School Uniform Grant funding to enable an increase in the £110 allowance per child agreed in 2019/20 and a second payment to be made for each eligible child, for example when starting Primary School;

Leader of the Tower Hamlets Labour Group, Cllr Sirajul Islam said:

“While the Conservative Government descends into in-fighting and ignores the worst drop of living standards since the 1960s, the Cost of Living Crisis is hurting families across Tower Hamlets.

When we are in power, Labour put forward a budget which aimed to protect those poorest in our borough, including a 100% Council Tax reduction for those who need it and additional money to support residents with the rising costs of energy bills and food poverty. We hope Mayor Rahman puts politics aside and supports this motion for the good of Tower Hamlets residents.”

Cllr Marc Francis, who is proposing the motion, said:

“Families in Tower Hamlets are feeling the pinch from the cost of living crisis, and the Council cannot sit back while our vulnerable residents struggle to survive. This motion looks to ensure the Council takes a direct intervention in tackling this drop in living standards, and I hope the Mayor and his Aspire Group support the proposed measures.”

Cllr Mufeedah Bustin, who is seconding the motion, said:

“We cannot be in a situation in the 21st century where struggling families are having to choose between heating and eating. Our proposal for an emergency budget will help provide those most in need of help with some much-needed extra support during these difficult times.”

 

Full Text of the Opposition Motion on an Emergency Budget to tackle the Cost of Living Crisis

Proposed by: Cllr Marc Francis

Seconded by: Cllr Mufeedah Bustin

 

This Council notes:

  • The steep increases in the costs of energy and food since the war in Ukraine began in February 2022 and the impact this is already having on Tower Hamlets’ poorest residents;

 

  • Councillors agreed a £200,000 increase in the Residents Support Scheme (Local Welfare Assistance) in the 2022/23 Budget meeting in March specifically to help residents struggling with their energy bills;

 

  • Councillors also agreed an additional £370,000 in the same Full Council meeting for the continuation of the Food Distribution Hub in 2022/23;

 

  • The Mayor agreed a Cost of Living package at Cabinet on 11th July 2022.

 

This Council believes:

  • This cost of living crisis demands an urgent response from both central, regional and local government if we are to prevent even worse levels of poverty and destitution;

 

  • The Chancellor’s statement on 26th May only goes a small way in easing the cost of living crisis, especially for those on the lowest incomes;

 

  • Tower Hamlets Council is now set to receive income significantly higher than originally anticipated in February 2021 and even March 2022 and that while some of this is due to be allocated, enough remains to give some scope for further measures to support Tower Hamlets’ poorest residents over the next two years.

 

This Council therefore resolves:

  • To call on the Mayor of Tower Hamlets to bring forward a full Emergency Budget, including the following measures specifically designed to ease the financial burden on our poorest residents over the years 2022/23 and 2023/24:

 

  • To increase the “Standard Utilities Allowance” used in the calculation of Homecare charges from £5 a week back to £15 a week as of 1st April 2022 (estimated cost – £250,000);

 

  • To allocate a sum of £500,000 to top-up the Discretionary Housing Payment funding pot to the same level as 2021/22, so LBTH can help more tenants affected by the Tory Government’s “Bedroom Tax”, Benefit Cap and Local Housing Allowance (LHA) “freeze” on their Housing Benefit / Universal Credit entitlement;

 

  • To allocate a £500,000 Council Tax “Hardship Fund” for residents struggling with these bills, including self-employed residents affected by the use of DWP’s Minimum Income Floor in calculating their entitlement to Council Tax Support and disabled residents whose Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is included as “income”;

 

  • Set aside a total sum of £100,000 to award one-off grants to the voluntary food-banks operating in Tower Hamlets in 2022/23 so that they are better able to ensure no-one goes hungry in the East End this year;

 

  • Add a further one-off top up of £200,000 to LBTH’s own Residents Support Scheme pot to help those who are unable to afford essential white goods, utility bills or who are in difficulty with priority debts;

 

  • Allocate an additional sum of £150,000 to the School Uniform Grant funding to enable an increase in the £110 allowance per child agreed in 2019/20 and a second payment to be made for each eligible child, for example when starting Primary School;

 

  • Fully utilise the expected £1.75 million allocated from the Department for Education’s Holiday Activity & Food Programme (HAFP) in 20223/23 and aside an additional sum of £250,000 to cover the removal of contingency funding so as to ensure every child in receipt of free school meals has access to a nourishing lunchtime meal throughout the summer holidays;

 

  • Explore options for the immediate extension of Free School Meals from September 2022 onwards to the parents of secondary school children where they are in receipt of Universal Credit, but currently have a household income of more than £7,400.

Notes:

1 in 6 households in Tower Hamlets means 20,200 facing serious financial difficulties.

Research conducted by Bristol University and Abrdn Financial Fairness Trust has found that rising prices have pushed more people into “serious financial difficulties” than the pandemic. A total of 4.4m households – one in six across the country – are now estimated to be in such difficulties, up 1.6m over the last nine months, with single parents, renters, people with disabilities, and families with three or more children the groups facing the most difficulties. A quarter of households how have no savings, while credit card debt is rising.

Among these families 71% have reduced the quality of food they eat, 36% have sold or pawned possessions and 27% have cancelled or not renewed insurance. A further 20% of all UK families are “struggling” to make ends meet, meaning more than one-third of households are either in “serious financial difficulties” or “struggling”

https://www.financialfairness.org.uk/en/media-centre/media-centre-news-article/tracker-july-22

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