Council declares cost of living emergency as inflation erodes wages and pensions

East Riding of Yorkshire Council has declared a cost of living emergency as inflation continues to climb towards double digits.

Liberal Democrat leader Cllr David Nolan said a summit was important because the council could only be a small part of the solution to the cost of living crisis. Photo submitted
Liberal Democrat leader Cllr David Nolan said a summit was important because the council could only be a small part of the solution to the cost of living crisis. Photo submitted

Councillors passed a motion from the opposition Liberal Democrats calling for the declaration but did not back their proposal to convene a summit on the issue.

Liberal Democrat leader Cllr David Nolan said a summit was needed because the council needed to hear about what it could do as inflation erodes wages and pensions.

Council Deputy Leader Cllr Anne Handley said a further £4.4m was earmarked to help locals while fellow Conservative Cllr Claire Holmes said a summit would be a unhelpful vanity project.

The declaration comes as inflation reached 9.4 per cent in June, up from 9.1 per cent in May according to the Consumer Prices Index (CPI).

It also comes as Trussell Trust figures included in the motion showed 10,034 food bank parcels were distributed in the East Riding in 2021-2, up from 3,526 in March 2019.

It follows the Liberal Democrat-run Hull City Council’s declaration of a cost of living emergency in June.

The motion calls for the council to lobby ministers to cut VAT from 20 per cent to 17.5 per cent for one year, claiming it would save households around £600.

It also calls for the coronavirus £20 Universal Credit uplift to be restored following its end in September.

Cllr Nolan said a summit was important because the council could only be a small part of the solution to the cost of living crisis.

The Liberal Democrat leader said: “We’re not bashing what the council’s doing already, the council’s doing what it can with the means that it has available to it.

“Our surveys are showing the cost of living is one of the biggest issues facing residents.

“Inflation’s approaching double digits and their wages and pensions are being eroded.

“A summit would be about sharing best practice and listening so we can better understand how we can help.”

Liberal Democrat Cllr Linda Johnson, who seconded the motion, said rising prices were only going to get worse, hitting vulnerable people especially hard.

The councillor said: “This isn’t just going to affect people’s mental health, it will cause people physical health difficulties, particularly the very young and the elderly.

“The most vulnerable are best represented by the organisations that know them best, so I’m disappointed that the amendment removes the summit.”

Cllr Handley said the authority had already spent millions helping locals, including distributing around £342,000 in emergency food funds in two years and paying out £17m in energy rebates.

The deputy leader said: “This council has looked after its residents, all while delivering over 600 services.

“Staff are working hard to make sure residents get all the help and support they need.”

Housing Portfolio Holder Cllr Holmes said people ashamed about their financial situation would be reluctant to attend a summit, meaning it would not reach those it sought to help.

The cabinet member said: “A summit would be a large meeting where councillors stand up and say look at what we’re doing for people, it would only be a headline.

“Support needs to be targeted and done quietly, we had events in my ward advising people how to manage their money, that helped people.”

The meeting also saw council leader Cllr Jonathan Owen say the authority needed to do everything it could to prepare for further price rises in the winter.

He was responding to Cllr Johnson asking if plans were being made for places of refuge for people who may be driven from their homes by further energy bill hikes.

Cllr Owen said libraries and leisure centres could be looked at and added locals needed to know there would be no stigma attached to seeking help.

The leader said: “The cost of living issue has been coming for weeks, if not months.

“The Liberal Democrats are a bit late to the party, we’re already helping people with this, it’s our duty as a local authority to do that.

“We have welfare visiting teams and benefits entitlement checkers, we’ve offered warm home discounts and free school meal programmes.

“But one thing I want to get across to many people who’ve never gone to look for benefits in their lives before is that there’s no stigma attached to that.”