Council leader calls extraordinary meeting to discuss cost of living crisis

25 August 2022
Wallasey Town Hall

The Leader of Wirral Council has called an extraordinary meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee next week to set in motion plans for a comprehensive and co-ordinated response to the cost-of-living crisis and the impact it is having on Wirral residents.

At the meeting requested by council leader and Chair of the Committee, Cllr Janette Williamson, members of the committee will be asked to place supporting the most in-need residents during the crisis as the council’s main priority for the coming period.

They will also be reviewing existing help and support being provided by the council and exploring what further assistance can be provided.

The committee will furthermore be asked to authorise the Chief Executive and senior officers to develop the existing Cost of Living Action Group to include partners within community groups and other local bodies that are already providing support in their neighbourhoods.

This will ensure that the services and assistance already being provided can be more strongly co-ordinated and more effectively delivered across the whole of Wirral.

Findings from research and surveys already conducted by the Citizens Advice Wirral and the Wirral Intelligence Service will provide a useful baseline snapshot of the situation facing local communities and highlights how more and more people are needing additional support.

The research also shows some of the actions people are having to take to increase their incomes and/or reduce their expenditure.

Some of the more starker findings from this research include:-

  • Nearly 1 in 7 people in Wirral are unable to pay their energy bills right now without cutting back on essential spending.
  • 5% of residents are unable to pay their bills even after cutting back on essential spending.
  • In April, the number of people unable to pay their bills even after cutting back on essential bills increased by 103%
  • Services have seen an increase for demand across emergency food, fuel, and debt support. 10% of people accessing the foodbank are working, and 50% state they have a low income. Those that have accessed services previously now have more complex problems
  • Emergency Fuel support - those on prepayment meters more vulnerable. Unlike direct debt payers, people who have prepayment meters don't have access to energy if they can't pay. Utilita has stated that £50 loaded on a prepayment card last year would have provided 11 days energy, with the October increase, it will provide 3 days and in January 23, around 2 days. Even emergency measures are not helping to cover the costs.
  • Higher portions of (shrinking) disposable income and savings being spent on essentials and cutbacks being made on non-essentials such as gym memberships, charitable donations etc.
  • Increased reliance on unsecured borrowing - loan sharks for residents unable to access credit
  • Fears about school holidays, the provision of back-to-school items and the affordability of Christmas
  • Sex working on increase as women feeling like they have no alternative to cover bills
  • Sustainability of businesses and Charity, Voluntary and Faith (CVF) organisations at risk due to their own rising fuel costs and impacts on staff and volunteers who support these services. Charitable donations are down up to 50% compared to 2021.