Letter to the Chancellor
1st November 2022
The cost of living emergency and fair funding for essential services
We write to you as representatives of public, private, faith and voluntary sector organisations in St Helens Borough regarding the urgent and dangerous threat to essential services and our communities posed by the cost of living emergency.
For over a decade we have seen increasing demand for services, and in recent months this has escalated even further with more and more households requiring help.
We convened an urgent meeting on 19th October and heard extremely worrying evidence from partners including:
- GPs reporting some of their most vulnerable patients are not taking medicines as they can't afford prescription charges.
- Citizens Advice reporting that they have seen a 100% increase in people requesting debt advice and they don't have enough staff to cope with demands.
- Our two main foodbanks ran out of food in September for the first time in their history.
- Contact Cares, our telephone line for all care needs, has seen a 50% increase in calls compared to this time last year.
- The Council Contact Centre has seen telephone contact triple as more and more residents seek help and advice.
- Torus, the biggest provider of social housing in St Helens, reporting an unprecedented increase in the number of people in rent arrears.
- Frontline staff reporting concerns that more people are experiencing suicidal thoughts due to financial pressures.
- The police reporting they are responding to higher levels of crime and disorder.
- More keyworkers at the Council and partner organisations are themselves accessing foodbanks for the first time.
We are extremely concerned about the impact that further public service cuts would have on residents and our ability to support them.
At the exact moment that many in our communities need public services more than ever, those services themselves are facing a cliff edge. It is a perfect storm with potentially severe consequences.
Many, if not all, providers of essential support services are already struggling. For example, St Helens Borough Council faces an estimated funding gap of £14m for 2023/24, but there is nothing left for the Council to cut that won't further harm its ability to support the most vulnerable and grow the local economy. The Conservative Chair of the Local Government Association, Cllr James Jamieson, recently spoke about a "tidal wave" of cost and inflationary pressures facing councils, and towns and cities across the country are all saying the same thing - unless government urgently provide fair funding to councils, residents can expect council tax to continue to rise and services to be cut back or scrapped altogether.
Ahead of your statement in November we ask you to recognise the economic and humanitarian urgency of this situation and to give essential services the fair funding they need in order to provide necessary support, and to give residents and businesses as much direct financial support as possible.
We ask you specifically to consider the following measures:
- Provide councils and local partners with adequate, sustainable resources to maintain their operational and financial sustainability, and give them the freedom and flexibility to lead local approaches, for example prioritising vulnerable households ensuring that people on pre-paid energy meters can access fuel vouchers.
- Provide a fair, accessible, and sufficient benefits system, maintained at the rate of inflation, providing financial stability for low income working households, protecting those who are unable to work, reducing health inequalities and linking effectively with key local partners to improve employment outcomes and wellbeing.
- Raise the threshold to increase the number of people eligible for free prescriptions.
- To enable all Primary schools to provide children with a healthy breakfast and to provide universal free school meals for all Primary pupils.
- To harness a percentage of the profits made by the energy suppliers to fund debt and welfare advice.
- To do more to clamp down on loan sharks.
- To provide subsidies to anyone who is at risk of severe illness due to cold weather (those aged over 65, those with respiratory illness and those with mobility problems) to ensure they can keep their houses heated.
St Helens Borough has the people and the potential to do great things - we need government to back us in the short term now to get through this emergency, and in the long term to help us fulfil that potential.
We look forward to hearing from you and to your statement on 17th November.
Cllr David Baines, Leader of St Helens Borough Council
Andrew Maley, Representative of Primary and Special Association of Head teachers (PASH)
Andrew Reid MBE, Chair, The Standing Tall Foundation
Angela Metcalfe, The Hope Centre
Cath Fogarty, Executive Director Corporate Services, St Helens Borough Council
Cath Murray Howard, Torus
Cllr Andy Bowden, Cabinet Member, Environment and Transport
Cllr Anthony Burns, Cabinet Member, Wellbeing, Culture and Heritage
Cllr Jeanie Bell, Cabinet Member, Safer, Stronger Communities
Cllr John Hodkinson, Member Champion for Local Business
Cllr Kate Groucutt, Cabinet Member, Inclusive Economy, Business and Skills
Cllr Marlene Quinn, Cabinet Member, Integrated Care and Health
Cllr Martin Bond, Cabinet Member, Finance and Governance
Cllr Michelle Sweeney, Member Champion for Mental Health
Cllr Nova Charlton, Cabinet Member, Children and Young People
Cllr Richard McCauley, Cabinet Member, Regeneration and Planning
Cllr Seve Gomez-Aspron MBE, Deputy Leader of St Helens Borough Council
Conor McGinn MP, St Helens North
David Reynolds, St Helens Citizens Advice Bureau
Dr David Lawson, Clinical Director, St Helens North PCN
Dr Hilary Flett, Clinical Director for St Helens at NHS Cheshire and Merseyside ICS
Emily Hawkins, Mission in the Economy Chaplaincy
Ged Sheridan, Merseyside Fire and Rescue
Hilary Brooks, Director of Children's Services, St Helens Borough Council
Jayne Parkinson-Loftus, Healthwatch St Helens
Jayne Taylor, Head of Communications, St Helens Borough Council
Jo Morris, The Hope Centre
John Tabern, Chairman of the Town Deal Board
Justin Hill, St Helens YMCA
Kath O'Dwyer, Chief Executive, St Helens Borough Council
Leigh Thompson, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust
Lisa Harris, Executive Director Place Services, St Helens Borough Council
Marie Rimmer CBE MP, St Helens South and Whiston
Mark Palethorpe, NHS Place Director & Executive Director People, St Helens Borough Council
Nick Dyer, Teardrops Supporting Your Community
Paul Morgan, The Pilkington Family Trust
Rachel Cleal, Director of Adult Social Services, St Helens Borough Council
Reverend Rachel Shuttleworth, St Helens Parish Church
Rob Cooper, St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
Rob Huntington, Assistant Chief Executive, St Helens Borough Council
Ruth du Plessis, Director of Public Health, St Helens Borough Council
Sally Yeoman, Halton and St Helens Voluntary and Community Action
Sarah Holden, St Helens Wellbeing Service
Simon Pierce, St Helens College
Tony Bennett, Wirral Community Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust
Tom Hughes, Chair, Healthwatch St Helens
Tracy Mawson, St Helens Chamber of Commerce
Cllr Charles D Banks
Cllr Jeanette Banks
Cllr Niall Campbell
Cllr Lynn Clarke
Cllr Tracy Dickinson
Cllr Robyn Hattersley
Cllr John Hodkinson
Cllr Janet Johnson
Cllr Keith Laird
Cllr Derek Long
Cllr Trisha Long
Cllr Linda Maloney MBE
Cllr Anne McCormack
Cllr Paul McQuade
Cllr Susan Murphy
Cllr Damien O'Connor
Cllr Bisi Osundeko
Cllr Michelle Sweeney
Cllr Mancyia Uddin
Cllr Colin Betts
Cllr John Case
Cllr Karl Collier
Cllr Donna Greaves
Cllr Michael Haw
Cllr David Hawley
Cllr Paul Hooton
Cllr Terence Maguire
Cllr Allen Makin
Cllr Linda Mussell
Cllr Geoffrey Pearl
Cllr Peter Peers
Cllr Glen Richards
Cllr Janet Sheldon
Cllr Teresa Simms
Cllr Brian Spencer
Cllr Kate Stevenson
Cllr James Tasker
Cllr David van der Burg