We live in difficult times. Inflation and high interest rates are affecting many people. Those already struggling on low incomes have been pushed into real hardship and anxiety about paying their bills. Others who are usually better off, have been pushed into the category of ‘just managing’ as mortgage repayment costs rise and families try to get by with much less money available to spend.
Even in Wokingham Borough, one of the wealthiest parts of the country, there is abundant evidence of people in difficulties, from increasing demand at foodbanks to problems of mounting debts.
Wokingham Borough Council is itself strapped for cash. The inflation and high interest rates that are having such a damaging impact on household budgets are hitting the council hard too. We also have to meet rising demand for our services, partly as a result of the current cost-of-living crisis, but also because there is growing need for complex children’s and adult services, which can be very expensive to provide.
Wokingham’s financial challenges are made greater by the very low level of reliable core funding that we receive from central government. We receive less than any other council in England with a comparable range of responsibilities. Government defends its low level of support for Wokingham on the grounds that ours is a wealthy area. But that takes no account of the very uneven distribution of the wealth in the borough; we have some very well-off residents, but many more who are struggling. Furthermore, the government takes no account, in its funding formula, of demand for complex services that support children and adults in need of specialist care.
Despite these unprecedented financial challenges, the Lib Dems are committed to helping those who need it most, including those struggling in this cost of living crisis. We are working alongside partners in the voluntary and charitable sector in the Hardship Alliance. This partnership enables us to maximise our help by pooling data, expertise, knowledge and resources. Together, we are able to achieve much more than any of us could do on our own. Most importantly, our collaborative efforts produce better outcomes for the people that we are trying to help.
As the winter starts, more people are likely to require help. To tackle this crisis, we need to mobilise all the good and compassionate people in the borough to help those in our community who are struggling. The council can and will play its part in this mobilisation of resources, but working as a community, we can do more.
The council has prepared a cost-of-living toolkit, where we have gathered lots of useful information in one place to help those organisations and people that want to give assistance. You can find it here: https://www.wokingham.gov.uk/cost-of-living/cost-living-toolkit
Those in need of assistance can find help on the Cost of Living Help Hub:
Cllr. Stephen Conway
Leader, Wokingham Borough Council