Islington Council last night declared a “cost of living emergency” and pledged to do all it can to help the tens of thousands of residents likely to be hit hardest by spiralling energy and food costs, and soften the blow for local small and medium-sized businesses.
The council will seek to use its available resources to protect the borough’s most vulnerable from the worst effects of the crisis, and continue its mission to create a more equal future for everyone in Islington.
Inflation – the price of goods and services – hit a 40-year high in August and is expected to remain high for the next two years. On top of this, from next month residents will be paying twice as much for their energy as they were at the start of the year, despite the Government’s Energy Price Guarantee.
This will be devastating for tens of thousands of people already on the brink – in Islington there are more than 11,500 families living in fuel poverty now, and 27,400 people in households receiving housing benefit or council tax support.
Nationally, wages are falling in real terms and businesses in Islington are closing at the fastest rate since 2017 amid uncapped energy bills and soaring costs for both goods and raw materials.
The council took action earlier this year to extend financial support to help thousands more residents cope with the cost of living crisis*. Last night, it resolved to offer grant aid for energy costs and build a local economy that works for everybody by operating as a beacon of best practice, paying its suppliers promptly, encouraging staff to shop local, promoting the business support already on offer and pledging to investigate the potential for bulk buying of energy with local businesses.
Council leader Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz said: “The cost of living crisis is already a profound reality and a frightening emergency for thousands of our most vulnerable residents, our poorest households, the elderly, and the disabled. Many are already at breaking point and fearful for what the future holds.
“We all deserve to live with dignity and the reassurance that there is a safety net if we need it. Our declaration of a cost of living emergency shows we’re stepping up where the Government has not, so we can continue our mission to make Islington a more equal place for all. With our partners including the charity sector, health service and schools we will continue to pull out all the stops to support our residents and businesses in every way we can, and prevent those most at risk from facing the worst consequences of the crisis.
“The stark reality is that we are only at the beginning of the cost of living crisis, and thousands of people who were previously comfortable may have to make difficult choices in the coming months as their household budgets are swallowed up by spiralling energy and food bills.
“Meanwhile, the owners of small and medium businesses have been given only six months of support with their energy bills from the Government – a sticking plaster in the short-term, but precious little help when planning ahead, as every business must.
“This winter will be difficult for many, and I urge anyone who needs help to contact us. All of our efforts will be focused on helping local people and businesses survive this crisis as best we can.”
The council also resolved to call on central Government to take several actions to alleviate the crisis, among them:
freezing gas and electricity prices at their current level to give people breathing space over the winter;
investing in renewable energy generation, held in common ownership;
increasing the National Minimum Wage to match the Real Living Wage, as identified by the Living Wage Foundation;
increasing Universal Credit and all other benefit payments in line with inflation;
introducing universal free school meals for all children, as Islington Council has done for primary school children since 2009.
For details of the support and advice available to residents and businesses to cope with the cost of living, see islington.gov.uk/CostOfLiving, where you can also sign up for regular email updates which also contain tips to help you save money and reduce your bills.