Cost of living crisis: Warm spaces to be created in Bolton for residents and help with energy bills

The local authority will also be distributing supermarket vouchers as it decides how to spend money allocated from the government.

Bolton Council is to spend £100,000 on ‘warm spaces’ for people to congregate over the winter and distribute £900,000 in supermarket vouchers to the families of 15,000 children. Another £500,000 will be used to part pay energy bills for struggling residents who pay their gas and electric costs via meters and cards.

Details have been published this week of how the council is to spend £2,780,000 allocated to them from central government to support those most in need this winter during what the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) describe as ‘the final stages of economic recovery’. The money is available for Bolton Council to distribute from the period October 1 this year to March 31, 2023.

Government guidance to the council states they should especially consider how they can support households with the cost of energy. The cash can also be used to support households with essential costs related to energy and with wider essential costs.

How is Bolton Council spending money allocated by the government?

In contrast to earlier support, the money is not restricted to households in receipt of benefits. In a report to the council’s cabinet, which is set to approve the plans this week, chief executive Sue Johnson, set out how the £2.8M Household Support Fund would be spent.

She said: “Supermarket vouchers will be issued to families of 15,000 children who meet the qualifying conditions for free school meals. The support would be provided through the October, Christmas and February holiday periods with a voucher to the value of £15 issued digitally via the schools for school age children and the council for those aged 0 to five to cover the holiday periods. This would account for approximately £900K of the available grant.”

Other plans include enhancing the council’s local welfare provision scheme (LWP) that provides support in the form of food parcels, gas and electric payments, essential household items and travel costs.

Under normal circumstances LWP provides an emergency one-off food parcel and a £50 payment towards gas and electric bills. The council will now use the the household support fund cash to enhance the offer to two weeks food parcels and £200 payment towards fuel costs, increasing to £300 for families with children.

This support will be aimed at residents who pay their energy costs via meters and cards as they are considered more vulnerable to loss of access to gas and electricity. The scheme would be relaxed by removing any restrictions that would require claimants to be in receipt of a qualifying benefits.

What has the council said about warm spaces in the town?

Mrs Johnson also gave details of a ‘warm spaces’ initiative. She said: “Part of Bolton’s cost of living response is aimed at the creation of warm spaces, located across the borough, where residents can spend time and access a range of support, advice and activities.

“It is anticipated that to facilitate this we will need to provide a range of support including food, hot drinks, activities and staffing. It is proposed that a budget of £100K is initially set aside to cover costs relating to the above offer.”

No locations for the ‘warm spaces’ were stated in the report but libraries and community centres are expected to be used.

Other elements of the fund are £100K to support residents with housing costs in cases of genuine emergency and to make £200K available in a bidding process to third party community groups to provide support with food and energy related costs. Two cost of livings events will take place on Saturday, November 5 and Wednesday, November 9 in the Albert Halls and will run from 9.30am until 1.30pm

The Festival Hall will be host to a range of services and organisations providing advice and support to residents who can drop into the event. The total amount contained in the measures is £1,875,000.

This leaves a remaining budget of £905,000. The council said that further proposals will be brought forward in January 2023 to review expenditure to date and to decide how the remaining budget should be allocated.