Stafford councillor calls for more Government support for struggling households

A Stafford community leader has called on the Government for more support to help residents struggling to heat their homes – but he failed to gain enough support from fellow councillors to send a letter to the Prime Minister.

Councillor Tony Pearce
Councillor Tony Pearce

Green Party councillor Tony Pearce put forward a motion at this month’s full Stafford Borough Council meeting, seeking action from the authority.

He called on the council to write to the Prime Minister and MPs representing the borough to seek “additional financial support to help residents manage the cost of living crisis”, as well as “a fully-funded nationwide action plan to insulate all homes and businesses as quickly as possible to improve energy efficiency and reduce bills".

Councillor Pearce said: “The issue of energy and heating is one which is uppermost in many people’s minds at this time. We are in a perfect storm with the rising cost of essentials, we are facing increases in tax rates and of course the energy crisis is hurting everyone.

“In that situation I think it behoves us to do what we can. I’m aware the borough council is already taking measures, but this is a crisis that needs addressing,”

The motion was seconded by Councillor Anne Hobbs, who said: “This issue of fuel poverty and building eco-friendly homes for a sustainable future, and the retro-fitting of current homes, is far too important to belong to any one party. I would ask you all support this motion and improve energy efficiency, help keep people warm and reduce their bills.”

Councillor Jill Hood said: “I’m concerned about the elderly who don’t know about Warm Homes and grants, who are too proud to go and ask. I’m worried that they won’t put their heating on this winter.

“I worry about the so-called JAMs – just about managing – those who are in full time employment who are not entitled to any benefits. Their children are going to school to keep warm and, if they are lucky, get a free school meal.

“I think this is an excellent motion. We should be asking the Government for more help because people are going to die.”

The motion failed to gain enough votes from fellow councillors to be passed, however. Councillor Jonathan Price, cabinet member for climate change, said work was already taking place in Stafford’s Coton ward to retro-fit homes with materials to make them warmer.

Councillor Jack Kemp welcomed the work taking place on homes in his Coton ward. He said: “I’m pleased the housing association are doing it because I know the concrete housing is very bad for damp.

“For many years I was invited into people’s houses to see the damp patches. But a lot of people who bought their houses are now elderly and can’t afford to do this work being done by the housing association, so those houses will still suffer from damp.”

Councillor Chris Baron said: “I know it is a very important issue and my house is cold. But I’m not going out looking for handouts.

“The country as a whole can’t afford to keep spending money like this. It is important for each and every one of us to do our bit rather than go to national government for everything.”

Councillor Jeremy Pert, cabinet member for community, said: “The borough council has provided historically a huge amount of support in this arena. Last year we provided energy advice to 1,000 households and this is something we have done for many years.

“Last year we provided tariff-switching and billing support to another 232 households and generated £24.6m in Warm Homes discounts. The council’s support fund referrals for heating grants were worth nearly £150,000 in the borough.

“This isn’t just something that is being proposed at the moment, it is something the council has been committed to for a long period of time. In addition we have provided funding for a post in Citizen’s Advice working specifically on housing support and our work is targeted at people who need it most.

“As part of the housing and health team’s work, we secured £1.2m as part of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund to support targeted energy efficiency. The Local Plan for 2020-2040 includes an ambition for all homes to be carbon neutral and Stafford Borough are one of the first 10 authorities in England to insist on all homes being carbon-neutral.”

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