‘Cost-of-living emergency’ to be declared amid concerns over rising household poverty in Ashfield

A ‘cost-of-living emergency’ is expected to be declared in Ashfield which the district council will use to call for more Government action to support residents with soaring gas, electricity and food bills.

Friday, 1st July 2022, 5:24 pm
Updated Friday, 1st July 2022, 5:24 pm

It comes as Ashfield Council’s leader says enquiries from residents struggling to pay council tax or rent have ‘gone through the roof’, with household spending increasing month-by-month, alongside a 40-year high in inflation.

Councillors will debate whether to declare the ’emergency’ which, if approved, would see the council calling on the Government to go further in tackling rising poverty.

Calls for support would include bringing back the £20 uplift in Universal Credit removed after the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as reintroducing the ‘triple-lock’ guarantee on state pensions to raise the value of the state pension every tax year by whatever is highest at the time: inflation, average wage growth or 2.5 per cent.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak.

Its reintroduction is expected to take place next year, having been removed temporarily following the pandemic.

And the council would also call on the Government to reduce VAT from 20 per cent to 17.5 per cent – as it was before the Conservatives seized power in Westminster in 2010 – which the motion states will provide ‘real action’ for household budgets.

Nottinghamshire Council figures show roughly one-in-three children across the Ashfield district are currently eligible to claim free school meals.

Across Nottinghamshire as a whole, the figure is slightly more than one-in-four, with about 10,000 more pupils eligible to claim since the start of the pandemic.

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Coun Jason Zadrozny, Ashfield Council leader, said the ongoing cost of living issues have caused poverty to be at the ‘highest since records began’ in his area.

He said: “Enquiries from residents not being able to pay their council tax and rent have gone through the roof. They have gone up 10 fold since 2020.

Poverty is the highest since records began in Ashfield. Government action has been merely a sticking plaster and is simply keeping the wolves from thousands of residents’ doors.

“Unless real action is taken, people are going to die from hunger. It’s that serious and we need real action now.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak outlined a series of measures in May to combat the crisis, including a number of payments to households to compensate for rising bills.

This included the previously-announced £150 council tax rebate for all band A-D homes, a £150 disability payment and a £1 billion household support fund for people ‘most in need with the cost of essentials’.

Ministers also U-turned on opposition calls for a ‘windfall tax’ on major energy companies, with excess profits to fund additional support for homes.

And Mr Sunak confirmed in a statement to MPs in May that the pensions ‘triple-lock’ is likely to return next year, meaning state pensioners could see their income significantly increase.

A Government spokesman said: “We recognise people are struggling with rising prices which is why we are protecting the eight million most vulnerable families with at least £1,200 of direct payments this year.

“We are taking a balanced approach – using our fiscal firepower to provide targeted help with the cost of living while being responsible with public finances to strengthen our economy for the long term.”