Council leader Peter Mason and Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, cabinet member for decent living incomes, have written to the government asking for urgent action on the cost-of-living crisis, highlighting the stark financial pressures facing many Ealing households.
Ealing Council has pledged to fight inequality and reducing income inequality, Helping the most financially vulnerable in the borough is a priority. The letter, sent to Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, sets out a package of measures and makes the case for households on the lowest incomes already hit hard by pandemic.
Inflation is currently at a 30-year high, and, like many in the UK, Ealing residents are facing a triple financial hit: rising living costs, higher taxes, and reduced benefits. Many local people are particularly vulnerable, because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and aviation slow down on nearby Heathrow and the business that rely on it.
Urgent package of measures
Councillor Mason and Councillor Mahfouz have asked the Chancellor for a package of measures and are demanding action in the following areas:
- Urgent help with energy bills: The council is asking Government to introduce a windfall tax on energy producers who have made huge profits from recent price increases to fund reductions in soaring bills, and to remove VAT from energy bills. With national insurance due to rise and inflation predicted to hit 5% in the spring, this will be of significant help to families already struggling with high food and energy bills.
- Reverse the cut to universal credit: the government’s decision to cut the £20 uplift has hit those already in poverty hard and comes at a time when costs are soaring, and many increasing numbers of people must choose between heating or eating. The council is asking Government to reinstate the uplift to help households cope with the cost-of-living crisis.
- Guarantee free school meals in the holidays: As part of its commitment to fight inequality, Ealing Council will be providing food vouchers to families who qualify for free school meals because of low incomes. The council is asking Government to guarantee that it will cover the full costs of providing holiday meals throughout 2022.
- Help keep transport fares low: Without a sustainable, long-term funding settlement, Transport for London will be forced to hike fares, disproportionately hitting the lower paid who rely on public transport the most. Transport for London is also an important local employer. The council is asking Government to keep fares low, and save jobs, by providing a realistic settlement.
‘The need is there. The government must respond’
Councillor Mahfouz said: “Local people on low incomes are on the front line of the cost-of-living crisis, hit hard by the pandemic and now by soaring prices. We will continue to do everything in our power to help them. The Government must step up and deliver on the package of measures that we set in our letter. This will make a significant difference to hard-up households facing a very tough 2022.
“Fighting Inequality is one of our three priorities. We know the impact of food price hikes, rises in energy bills and inflation will be felt most sharply by those least able to cope, many of whom are already living with significant inequalities. We need the Government to act now.”
Councillor Mason said: “As a council, we stand on the side of our residents. We are doing everything we can within our power and the Government needs to do the same.
“The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the poverty that many of our friends and neighbours are living with day-to-day. So many responded to that crisis with neighbourly acts of love and kindness. This is wonderful, but, as the pandemic recedes, we cannot return to a situation where we don’t see the obvious problems around us. The need is there. The Government must respond.”
Extra help available for residents on low incomes
Ealing residents in crisis could be eligible for extra financial support over winter through its Local Welfare Assistance Scheme. Residents who have unsuccessfully applied before may be able to receive help under the new rules. .
Our council tax support scheme provides up to 100% discount on bills to the most vulnerable. Around 16,500 working age Ealing residents, and 7,400 pensioners, currently receive help paying their council tax through this scheme. That’s around one out of every six households.
Families will children who receive certain benefits, or who have no recourse to public funds, are strongly encouraged to apply for free school meals. Families in receipt of free school meals for reasons of low income will also receive food vouchers in February half term and the Easter holidays. In addition, their children will be able to sign up to the free HAF scheme over Easter where they can take part in free activities, such as sports and drama, as well as receive a meal.