Wirral’s Labour leader is pushing to open as many public buildings as possible this winter to provide ‘warm banks’ for residents who may be struggling to pay their energy bills.
As the Conservative government is yet to announce any additional help following further gas and electricity price hikes, Cllr Janette Williamson has asked council officers to review all council buildings, including libraries and leisure centres, to explore whether they can be used to provide warm and safe hubs during the cost of living emergency for residents during the winter months.
Ahead of tonight’s extraordinary meeting of the council’s Policy & resources committee, she is also asking officers to work with partners including the NHS, police, fire service, community and faith sector groups, to establish buildings that can be used during the winter months, and has asked finance bosses to give a breakdown of all funding available to community groups currently providing a lifeline to residents in need.
Cllr Williamson says, “As winter looms and prices soar, we are seeing the cost of living emergency hitting residents across the borough.
“I called this extraordinary meeting to look at ways in which we can help our communities where our zombie Government is failing to act.
“We have asked for help – I wrote to the chancellor more than three weeks ago and heard nothing back. Meanwhile, another price hike has been announced and every day we are hearing from people who cannot afford to feed their families.
“Many of them have never had to ask for help before. These are, in many cases, working families who have previously been able to manage, but thanks to this Government sleeping on the job, they find themselves unable to make ends meet.”
She will also be inviting organisations to sign up to a Wirral warm spaces and places network.
She adds, “We are now looking at ways to fill the gaps as best we can, using what resource we can to create a map and list of welcoming spaces where people can pop in for free and enjoy a warm welcome, and be connected to other support if they need it.”
What is a ‘warm bank’?
Libraries, community centres, churches, art galleries and other public spaces could be used as ‘warm banks’. This winter people who struggle to heat their homes will be able to keep warm inside the public buildings.
Councils across the UK are proposing the idea as the cost of living crisis escalates. The energy price ‘cap’ is set to rise to £3,549 from October 1 – an increase of over 80% and the ‘cap’ is expected to rise again in January.