Observer column 24 June 2022
Cost of living crisis
We will all be facing a cost-of-living crisis together this winter. Prices are already rocketing but by the time we all want the heating on again, for many this will be a very difficult decision to take - heating or eating, what would you do?
More than half of the town are already struggling with the increased costs of food, petrol, gas and electricity. That will become an even bigger percentage in October. So what can we do about it?
Well, on one level we can ask how it's come to this? Are the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer?
We can make sure that all of us in Hastings, as a caring town, help ourselves by helping each other. And that's my main concern as a councillor. I work for all of you, whatever you voted for. But what keeps me awake at night is the thought that many in our town are suffering, from poverty, depression, poor health or housing problems. That's why we have tried to ensure that the funds that we have go to those who need help the most.
In just three weeks more than 1,800 applications have been received for the Household Support Fund. Our team is working through these applications in order of them being received, but with so many applications it is taking time. Half of this fund is for families, and this has been over-subscribed, but half is for pensioners, and we don't yet have enough applications.
You can check your eligibility and apply online. But as some may struggle with the online form, so if you have older friends or family who may qualify and you are able to help them apply, please do as soon as possible.
We have almost paid out all the direct debit payments for the government's £150 'energy via the council tax' rebate for those living in council tax bands A to D. Anyone who has not had their payment by 30 June or who does not pay by direct debit should fill out the application form online. If you have already done this, the team is working through these applications and will be in touch.
If you feel you could afford to give some of this financial support to those who are less fortunate than you, we are working on a scheme which will allow you to donate to a fund that we can distribute over the winter to those who need some extra help. I will publicise this as soon as it's ready.
I have asked that any further funding we receive (such as the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, part of the Levelling Up programme) goes to the communities who need it most. We have just agreed new help from our NHS and Public Health partners to tackle the inequality in health provision, and I will write more about this next time.
One way or another I am sure we can help each other get through this winter and please, if you are struggling or know someone who needs help, please contact your local councillor as we are there for you.
Council Leader's column