Agenda item


The Scrutiny Research Officer presented the introductory report for the ‘Cost of Living’ review and asked Members to consider the national context of the cost of living crisis, the actions the Council had taken so far to acknowledge the impact of the crisis and to establish appropriate terms of reference for identifying the next steps needed to progress the review.


An informal Working Group had been arranged in September 2022 to allow Members time to determine the remit for the review but unfortunately the meeting was cancelled and so Committee was now being asked, in its formal setting, to identify the parameters for the review.  Members were asked to consider how the Council might best help its residents to cope with the impacts of the cost of living crisis that was showing no signs of abating.


Members were provided with the following information:


·         outcomes from recent Office for National Statistics surveys between 14 September and 25 September relating to food shopping, pay, jobs, future concerns, energy bills and mortgage and rent payments


·         the latest information regarding energy prices, energy caps and Government support for households


·         the current rate of inflation and contributing factors resulting in the sharp increases over the preceding few months


·         the work being undertaken by the Local Government Association to offer solutions and support to local authorities working through the crisis and the introduction of the new ‘Cost of Living Hub’; a toolkit sharing best practice and offering guidance to enable Councils to support residents with the rise in the cost of living.


Members were also reminded of the Council’s declaration of a ‘Cost of Living Emergency’ through a notice of motion to the Council meeting in July 2022.  A cost of living survey had recently been made available for employees to complete and it was acknowledged that the results and any outcomes from the survey would be helpful for informing the work of the review.


The Service Manager, Scrutiny and Democratic Services acknowledged that the cost of living crisis would undoubtedly have an impact on all of the Council’s services and residents and the importance of the Council being adequately prepared for the tough times ahead.


Members debated the matter and considered, amongst other things:


·         the initial reasons for its inclusion on the Scrutiny Work Programme as a result of concerns that not enough information was being made available to residents, through the Council’s media channels, to assist them with navigating the rising cost of living


·         concerns regarding how the cost of living crisis was evolving and deepening nationally and across Europe and its inevitable effect on housing, debt, bills, employment and mental health for all


·         the importance of the Council being able to effectively signpost and support people who cannot cope during the crisis


·         the potential for providing ‘Warm Rooms’ across the District through the winter to offer help and support to residents and encourage some much needed community spirit


·         the alarming reductions in disposable income for the majority of households due to the rise in interest rates and mortgage repayments


·         acknowledgement that the Council’s Annual State of Ashfield Debate was due to tackle the cost of living crisis at its meeting to be scheduled in December 2022


·         the urgent need for local authorities to lobby their local MP’s and Government to ensure their complete focus remains on assisting the nation through the crisis and not on in-house disputes


·         the possibility of speaking to an energy company representative as part of the review to gain some insight into the crisis from their perspective.


The Service Manager, Scrutiny and Democratic Services advised Committee that some authorities were already starting to address the potential impacts of the crisis by reviewing all their current policies to ensure they remained fit for purpose.  New focussed policies were also being created to address food provision, financial wellbeing and anti-poverty issues.  Some Council’s were also developing ‘Here to Help’ strategies to ensure optimum targeted support was offered to residents during the course of the crisis.



that the Scrutiny Research Officer be requested to undertake and ascertain the following in readiness for the next meeting of the Committee in December 2022:


a)    whether the Council is intending to refresh their current Corporate Plan document to reflect the local and national difficulties being faced as part of the cost of living crisis;


b)    if the Council is utilising their buildings and/or preparing any events over the winter period to provide warm, safe places for people and to increase community spirit and wellbeing;


c)    to establish which of the Council’s current policies might benefit from a refresh to incorporate any additional support or contingencies for residents struggling with the impacts of the cost of living crisis;


d)    what provision and/or dedicated pages are currently available on the Council’s website offering support, signposting and guidance to residents needing help with housing, financial, emotional difficulties as a direct result of the crisis;


e)    to circulate the results of the recent employee cost of living survey, if available.































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