Action planned to support communities in cost of living crisis

Included in the package will be cash for eligible families to buy school uniforms.Included in the package will be cash for eligible families to buy school uniforms.
Included in the package will be cash for eligible families to buy school uniforms.
Scottish Borders Council is planning to dip into its reserves to fund a £1.2m financial support package to help protect households facing the cost of living crisis, it has emerged.

When the full council meets on Thursday, August 25, members will be asked to endorse the establishment of a short-term multi-agency Cost of Living Crisis Strategic Group in order to provide “enhanced response to the exceptional autumn and winter pressures our communities are facing”.

Significantly, members are being recommended to release £1.2m from council reserves to support communities in 2022/23.

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The action has been made possible as the result of a £1.4m council underspend in the last financial year – savings which were then placed in the council’s reserve fund.

Of that total the proposal is to allocate £585k to enable “immediate dispersion of financial support”.

This will include £235k towards warm clothing payments of £100 to each child entitled to either free school meals or clothing grants (amounting to approximately 2,350 children in the Borders).

A further £150k will go towards organisations such as the Citizen Advice Bureau and Changeworks to provide additional resources to assist with referrals, energy advice, money advice and budgeting.

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Additionally, £100k will go towards topping up the Scottish Welfare Fund and £50k to do the same with the Discretionary Housing Payment.

Members will be recommended to delegate authority to the council’s director of resilient communities, in consultation with members of the Anti-Poverty Members Reference Group, to allocate the remaining £615k as required.

A report to full council says: “The current cost of living crisis is already affecting many residents in the Scottish Borders, and it is clear the situation will significantly worsen as we move towards autumn and winter. It is acknowledged that there are a significant number of supports already in place, but in a similar way the council and partners responded during the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukrainian crisis, we need to build on what is currently being provided and step up with immediate action to further support those in need.

“The council delivered a £1.4m underspend in 2021/22 which was directed to reserves at the financial year end.

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“In response to the current cost of living crisis it is now proposed to release this underspend from the council’s reserve to provide £1.2m support to communities during 2022/23. The remaining £200k will be released to top up existing financial support to businesses which will be presented to members for their approval in a future report.”