Warm banks are to open in public buildings and other locations across Stockport as part of efforts to help people cope during the cost of living crisis.
It is feared residents will face a choice between heating and eating this winter after it was revealed last month that the price cap will rise to £3,549 in October.
That represents a leap of 80 % from earlier this year and £2,300 more than this time 12 months ago. Food prices are also up nearly 13% in the year to July, while the RAC says petrol prices remain too high, despite record price drops last month.
The issue was raised at a town hall scrutiny meeting by Councillor Graham Greenhalgh, who warned people were facing ‘poverty’ and asked how the council could support those ‘who are genuinely in some distress about how they are going to cope through this coming winter?’
Coun Helen Foster-Grime, cabinet member for communities and housing, said she had been exploring a number of initiatives in preparation for the ‘harsh and difficult winter’ ahead.
And she confirmed that warm banks – spaces where people who cannot afford to heat their home can go to keep warm – will be introduced over the colder months.
“One of those things we are doing is looking at ‘warm spaces’ – a warm space project,” she told the meeting.
“We are all acutely aware that there will be many people – most of us actually – that are going to struggle, and are struggling already to pay our heating bills.
“And, as [committee chair] Coun Peers has said already, no greater than those that were already struggling and in poverty and have been doing so through the pandemic.”
Other councils’ plans
It comes after Tameside council last month confirmed its libraries would be available for residents to keep warm over the winter, while Wigan announced its ‘Warm Welcoming Spaces’ scheme. Manchester Council has also announced similar plans.
While Stockport will not set out the full details of the initiative until next month, Coun Foster was able to give an indication of how it would work.
“As part of this project we are looking at public buildings [and] where partners of the council can work together to provide warm spaces for people to be able to go to spend time, to feel warm [and] to have perhaps a welcoming drink and so on,” she told councillors.
“The voluntary groups will be able to apply for very specific and tailored help that we are able to make available – that’s the intention.
“We hope to have an interactive map of where these warm spaces will be across the borough so that everybody knows where they are in their areas.”
However, Coun Foster-Grime acknowledged there was ‘considerable digital poverty’ in the borough and the council was also ‘looking at other ways of getting information out to people.’
She said: “We have a number of ideas we are hoping to develop and the team are working on that at the moment. It may be that we take leaflets out to targeted places where they are needed so that people are aware in a different form as well.”
Stockport council’s housing and communities scrutiny committee met at the town hall on Monday night (September 5).