Ashfield Council to hold special meeting on how to support families with cost-of-living crisis

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Ashfield Council will dedicate a special full council meeting to debating the ongoing cost of living crisis and how it can get other local organisations to support struggling households.

The authority became one of the first councils in the country to declare a ‘cost of living emergency’, with councillors are writing to local MPs and the Government to ask for quicker action.

The motion calls on the Government to reintroduce the £20 Universal Credit uplift, which was removed following the Covid-19 pandemic, and to reduce VAT from 20 to 17.5 per cent.

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These are measures the council believes will help ease the burden on struggling families as gas, electric, petrol and food bills surge.

Coun David Hennigan.Coun David Hennigan.
Coun David Hennigan.

Coun David Hennigan, said: “When you hear the real life stories from residents on a daily basis about living in abject poverty you know that real, long-term action is needed.”

Referring to Sherwood MP Mark Spencer and Ashfield MP Lee Anderson, the Independent member for Sutton Central and New Cross said: “Our two Conservative MPs have continually voted in the House of Commons for things that adversely impact the cost of living – the rise in National Insurance, end to the £20 Universal Credit uplift and end to the pensioner’s pay rise guarantee being just three examples.

“We are hoping our pressure will lead to the MPs thinking twice before voting for things that make Ashfield residents poorer. If more councils follow our lead, we can build a movement to deliver sustainable change to help residents living from pillar to post.”

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The council leader has confirmed a special ‘State of Ashfield Debate’ will be held in autumn, where councillors can discuss support measures with local organisations.

His comments came as numerous councillors raised concerns about the impact on struggling families, with household gas and electricity bills due to surge again in October to an average of more than £3,000 per year.

Coun Jason Zadrozny, council leader, said: “This cannot be a motion for bells and whistles before it disappears, and it cannot just be a letter to our MPs and the Government.

“I’m committing that the State of Ashfield Debate will be entirely based on the cost of living.

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“We will be working with partners and bringing them in, to see how we can work with them to support them, and how they can do more to support our residents as we hit the winter.

“This is a major problem and one of a generation, something people don’t survive in many ways, and it’s going to be catastrophic for many families and pensioners.”

Ashfield’s three Conservative councillors – Coun Phil Rostance, Coun Kevin Rostance and Coun Chris Baron – did not speak to the motion and abstained from the vote.

However, a Government spokesman said: “We recognise people are struggling with rising prices.

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“[This] is why we are protecting the eight million most vulnerable families with at least £1,200 of direct payments this year. All households will receive the £400 energy payments and 80 per cent will get a £150 council tax rebate.

“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.”