Follow the Leader Denise Jeffery, leader of Wakefield Council: Challenging times ahead but we can help you
We as a council are working to help people break free from poverty.
As we enter the cooler autumn months, I know I’m not alone in feeling that we are heading for much tougher times.
We are facing huge hikes in energy costs and petrol prices – at a time when many people in our district have also been impacted by furlough, leading to household budgets being put under increasing strain.
I’ve spoken to numerous people and families in both the area I represent – Castleford and Glasshoughton - and across the wider district who are personally impacted.
The figures are stark – with a 12 per cent increase in the price cap on energy bills from October of this year, with a further hike predicted in spring 2022.
Other increases include a 17 per cent rise in the price of a litre of petrol, the average food shop up by over five per cent and inflation went up 3.2 per cent in August and 17.3 per cent of households in our district are in fuel poverty.
But energy increases do not happen in isolation – those who have lost the £20 uplift in universal credit, which all too many in our area are aware has recently been withdrawn, are at risk of serious financial hardship and I will continue to lobby in favour of the most vulnerable.
These numbers only tell half the tale, behind each are individuals, families and communities that are suffering.
One lady I recently spoke to was worried that the hike in energy prices would leave her with two difficult choices this winter; heat her home or feed her family.
Others have told me how they already rely on help from their local food bank just to get by and that recent increases in the cost of living will only make their situations worse.
This is simply not right, which is why we as a council are working to help people break free from poverty.
Our support and advice makes a difference.
During half-term we are supporting families where children have free school meals.
We and our partners will travel across the district from November, offering benefits checks, to ensure families are maximising what they are entitled to whether in work or not.
We can also offer help through schemes to support residents to improve their home insulation and heating.
Our Money Smart scheme helps households reduce fuel bills and other costs, and helps residents to maximise incomes.
For anyone worried about finding a job or training to get skills, our STEP UP scheme is one of our district’s biggest successes in helping people to progress in their work, find a new role, or training.
We also know it is also a very challenging time for business too and we are currently making referrals to the Resource Efficiency Business programme that is available to businesses regionally.
The programme allows businesses to access capital funding to make changes to support their workplace.
Please don’t struggle in silence, we are here to help.
For more information about council services visit http://www.wakefield.gov.uk