Midlothian approves cost of living plans

Wednesday October 5th 2022

Midlothian Council Fairfield House Main

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Work to help people heat their homes may need to be replaced by ways to help them keep their homes as the cost of living crisis deepens, a council leader has warned.

Midlothian council leader Kelly Parry said that immediate action plans to support vulnerable families over the next few months may not be enough to deal with the problems people will face.

Councillors agreed to use Covid funds to provide free re-heatable meals and laundry services to help people cope with the cost of living at a meeting earlier today.

But Councillor Parry said it was clear more was going to be needed as the country continues to struggle with rising costs.

She said “I fear we may go from looking at how we can help people to heat their homes to how we can help them to keep their homes in the months ahead.”

Councillors approved plans to use Covid funding to support a three-month pilot project which will provide weekly ‘wash and dry’ sessions for an estimated 200 vulnerable residents a week along with providing free re-heatable meals.

The projects were proposed by the council’s cross party Cost of Living Task Force, which was set up in June, to work with local groups to find ways to help people in the current crisis.

A report to elected members asked them to support the immediate measures ahead of winter by using £118,000 of earmarked Covid funding.

It argues the money can be used for the projects “on the basis that it supports well-being.”

And it set out a range of other potential measures which could be considered in the long term to provide more aid.

Councillor David Virgo asked what help was being considered for people who find themselves struggling but are not in groups previously classed as vulnerable.

He pointed out people on salaries of up to £40,000 were struggling to pay their bills.

The meeting was told by officers “It is a very challenging situation and new to everyone. We need to stretch our definitions and be more flexible.”

Provost Debbi McCall, who is a former welfare officer, told a meeting of the council she had never experienced such tough times for communities.

She said: “I have never known anything like this. I thought things were bad in 2008 but this is going to be dreadful, really, really awful.”

Concerns were raised over ensuring funds set aside to support residents were used to best value with Councillor Derek Milligan saying upwards of £16,000 of the £118,000 could end up being spent on administration costs by ‘trusted partners’ used to provide the service.

Calls were made for monthly updates of how the money was being spent to be provided to councillors.

The council agreed to introduce the two immediate projects as well as a cost of living crisis support co-ordinator.

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