Leader declares cost of living emergency

At today’s city council cabinet committee, leader of the council Cllr Ian Ward, made the following announcement:

We have been hit by a perfect storm: inflation is at the highest levels for over 40 years and energy prices are rising at the fastest rate in living memory. Bills will rise again from 1 October with the energy price cap rising to £3,549 per year for dual fuel supply with the average household likely to spend over £1000 on energy bills between now and the end of the year. In January 2023 the energy price cap is due to rise again with bills likely to rise to just under £5,500 per year in January and over £6,500 in April 2023.

The Bank of England has forecasted the country will enter a recession by the end of this year.

In Birmingham unemployment is running at 11.5% which is twice the national average; the rate of child poverty stands at approximately 43% which equates to over 100,000 children; and we estimate that over 300,000 people are already living in poverty.

As a local authority we have been taking pro-active steps to support our communities with the cost of living over recent months including:

  • Announcing an additional £1.3m to support the most vulnerable in our cities on top of the £12.6m being spent via the Household support fund
  • We have ensured that over £56m has been paid out in Council Tax Energy Rebates to approximately 376,000 households out of a total of 390,000;
  • The council has begun to issue Healthy Start vouchers to eligible children with the Children’s Trust granting hardship payments to those most in need.
  • We are working with third sector partners to promote debt prevention and providing advice on cash management as well as promoting benefits take up – which will be crucial in ensuring that the most vulnerable receive some support as quickly as possible. And last week the council announced plans to look at the feasibility of creating warm banks across the city as we head into autumn and winter.

However, given the enormity of the challenge even the above measures will not be enough to fully mitigate the impact of the rising cost of energy, fuel at the pump and food in the supermarkets.

Whilst we eagerly await the proposals of the new Prime Minister, it is clear that the rise in the cost of living is not a momentary challenge but unfortunately will be with us for some time to come.

Every person in every part of this city will be affected in some way or another. The negative impacts of the rise in the cost of living are on a par with the pandemic: and consequently, require a pandemic level of response.

On that basis it is my intention for the council to declare a ‘Cost of Living Emergency’, to prepare the organisation for a rapid deployment of resources to assist individuals, households and our business community – as a first step I will be convening a meeting of key officers and partners to discuss the first stages of the emergency response.

We do not have all the answers, and without knowing what support the Government will put in place or how long energy prices and inflation will continue to rise – we will not be able to fully understand the impacts. 

However, what I can promise is that the council will continue to listen, and work constructively with our communities and partners to do all that we can to limit the damage.

Less than a month ago we were celebrating what many people are calling the greatest Commonwealth Games ever. It was truly bold, it was truly Birmingham.  I have said that these Games would be the start of a Golden Decade of Opportunity for our city and I want to make clear that in spite of the current circumstances, the council remains as committed as ever to delivering that.

We will continue to pursue a strategy  of bringing major events to the city as part of the legacy of the Games including Eurovision next year and the European Athletics Championships in 2026 – which will act as a form of economic stimulus – a shot in the arm for local businesses and those looking for work. 

Our plans to Level-Up the city are gaining pace including our proposals to retrofit over 60,000 homes to make them more energy efficient, creating thousands of jobs in the process. In July we committed to investing £27m on a pilot to retrofit 300 homes – this is just the beginning.

We will relentlessly pursue inward investment, showcasing our pipeline of strategic housing and regeneration sites, building on the global reputation that the city has cemented following the Games.  And of course, there is the arrival of HS2 by 2030.

The last two-and-a-half years brought some of the most challenging times that Birmingham has ever faced and sadly there are more difficult times ahead. But we are a resilient city and a resourceful set of people. We will get through this and deliver that Golden Decade in the process.

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