A Cost-of-Living Emergency: Suffolk GLI Motion Rejected by Conservatives

A motion from our Group, calling for a declaration of a Cost-of-Living Emergency, has been rejected by Conservatives today at Suffolk County Council.

Suffolk GLI are calling for more action from the Government to alleviate rises in families falling into poverty in the country. While the Conservatives have announced some packages for some people, more needs to be done to tackle soaring prices for fuel, increased caps for energy bills, and rising inflation. Additional help outlined in the motion included zero-rated VAT on insulation and an expansion of the Warm Homes Grant.

The Motion (copied below) called for an urgent review into what SCC can do to redirect efforts to help those plummeting further into fuel poverty. In addition, the motion also asked for this Council to explore setting up a cross-party, cross-authority ‘Retrofit Task Force’ to coordinate an organised, comprehensive response to insulating more homes – saving Suffolk consumer’s on costs and reducing further emissions.  

The Proposer, Cllr Jessie Carter, said:

“We have called for SCC to take the lead on creating a cross-party local authority-led retrofit task force. This, being the most effective way to cut household bills, reduce demand, and create jobs in the process.”

“The people of Suffolk deserve the best, and they have been let down. We should be taking immediate action before people fall in further disrepair.”

“With the mishaps currently taking place within the Government, support needs to be coming from somewhere. We had submitted reasonable actions to be taken up by this Council, on top of the current support given. This was not political; this was for the people who are choosing between heating their homes or feeding their families.”  

Cllr Simon Harley, Suffolk GLI Spokesperson for Public Health, seconded the motion rejected by Conservatives, saying:

“If this crisis is not an emergency for ordinary people who will be unable to eat, heat and travel this coming winter, then what is?…”

“…Retrofitting schemes currently in progress are clearly underfunded and we know they cannot immediately meet the demand, but the support for this emergency declaration would have enabled us to press government for a requisite level of support, similar to that of the Covid-19 emergency. We have suggested in this motion practical ways to help our citizens and to not take this opportunity now will be a truly ruinous decision for many of the residents of Suffolk and we will all come to regret it.”

Suffolk GLI will continue to work as hard as we can to ensure this council is doing everything it can to provide support to those most vulnerable. To read our motion, see below:

“We as a county care about our citizens in Suffolk. This Council is proud to support those most vulnerable in our communities. The current crisis has left families falling deeper into fuel poverty, with some Suffolk households choosing either to feed their families, or heat their homes.

Initially, we ask this Council:

  • To declare that Suffolk has moved from a Cost-of-Living Crisis, to a Cost-of-Living Emergency;
  • To call for an urgent internal review, in conjunction with our s.151 Officer, into what SCC can offer those most vulnerable and those falling into fuel poverty, with the input of stakeholders including Citizens Advice, Food Banks, local Trade Unions and Chambers of Commerce etc.

Upgrading the energy efficiency of homes is a strategy that both saves consumer costs, but also drives towards this Government’s and our council’s ambition of achieving net-zero carbon by 2050. Energy price caps, regulated by Ofgem, are set to rise to around £2,800 in October and to £3,000 in 2023 – putting many households below the poverty line.

As the County Council of Suffolk, we further seek this Council to:

  • Support the Suffolk Public Sector Leadership Board (or similar), in urgently exploring a proposal to set up a cross-party and cross-authority ‘Retrofit Task Force’
  • Take the lead, as the Countywide Local Authority, and host the newly formed Retrofit Taskforce to enact a model, similar to Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils New Build Design Code, and the Lewes model.
  • Help create a ‘Suffolk Retrofit Academy’, to train all Retrofit Assessors, Coordinators, and Advisors, creating a labour force ready to achieve net-zero by 2050 in the longer term, and allow opportunities to drive down consumer bills in the short term.

In addition, to provide significant savings to consumers and drive towards net-zero, we further call on this Government to:

  • Increase the Warm Homes Discount from £140 to £400 per year, expanding the number of eligible households to 9.3 million;
  • Expand the zero-rated VAT on the installation of Energy Saving Materials (ESMs) -such as insulation – to include the ESMs themselves, providing a further incentive and savings on consumers to insulate their homes;
  • Work with Local Authorities to roll out a street-by-street retrofitting programme, saving costs, and delivering quicker results with local expertise & Supply chains.

Finally, we ask that this Council:

  • Writes to all Suffolk MPs, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to outline all the actions and declarations above”.

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