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Council declares Cost of Living Emergency amid spiralling energy bills and central Government tax rises

South Oxfordshire District Council has declared a Cost of Living Emergency and has called on the Government for urgent support following a council motion.

The council fears vital services it provides such as homelessness prevention and community support will come under greater pressure as the authority tries to support residents during these difficult times.

The country has seen average energy bills increase by £693 per year and petrol prices close to £2 per litre, and yet the Universal Credit £20 uplift has been removed and the Government has increased National Insurance by 1.25 per cent – costing the average family an extra £108 per year.

Locally, reliance on food banks has greatly increased across South Oxfordshire.

These cost of living increases have also impacted council services, from housing needs to the work of its community hub. Council finances are badly affected by rising inflation too.

Councillor David Rouane, South Oxfordshire District Council Leader, put forward the motion, which was seconded by Councillor Robin Bennett.

Cllr Rouane said: “We are no longer dealing with just a Cost of Living Crisis – this is an emergency.

“Without urgent action from the Government, our services will be put under even greater pressure at a time when our budget is still impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and further hit by rising inflation.”

Following the agreed motion, the council is sending a letter to both Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Nadim Zahawi, Chancellor of the Exchequer, calling on the Government to:

  • urgently review the energy cap regime to ensure that it provides much greater protection to consumers.
  • immediately reduce VAT.
  • increase benefits in line with inflation.
  • reinstate the Universal Credit uplift.
  • provide immediate financial support for public transport.
  • recognise the pressures that high inflation is placing on local government finances and provide additional funding to councils.

Cllr Rouane added: “The financial pressures being faced by our communities can only be eased by firm, decisive and bold action. We therefore implore HM Government to take the necessary steps.”

Locally the council is calling for a Cost of Living Emergency Summit with stakeholders, including Oxfordshire County Council, Citizens Advice, food banks, and others, and both local MPs, to work towards a community response to the emergency.

The council has a dedicated webpage for cost of living help, which contains information on the different support funds that are available and links to other resources.