Cost of Living Crisis : ‘People will suffer’ says Labour Leader

Labour leader leigh Redman speaking from Bridgwater’s Town Hall ‘warm space’

At todays Executive meeting of Somerset County Council, Labour group Leader Cllr Leigh Redman (Bridgwater North & Central) asked “We must not deceive ourselves, the cost of living crisis will hit everyone and even with our work people will suffer! I want to know what we are doing to support our staff as they are just as likely to suffer this winter?”  As Somerset’s Executive approved a wide ranging package of support, the Labour Leader continued “the report outlines a number of initiatives, all of which I support but we must be cautious to limit duplication in what we do, to maximise reach. Too often during the pandemic when I was out doing deliveries I encountered two food packs, so  the talk of Warm spaces will be critical.  I attended the launch of Bridgwater town councils drop in, this will be a weekly event on a Tuesday 10-4, where people can come in for a tea, coffee, biscuit or just to chat, they are offering many services in that time, but we need to ensure that as much of the week is filled with warm hubs and that we publicise them, ideally so that every day in our towns and villages there is somewhere for people to go. The work food banks and pantries do now, is amazing, these should also be mapped, again to support as many people as possible and maximise the reach with our limited resources. A live mapping system that is up to date and maintained will help us coordinate all this help.”

Somerset County Council’s Executive voted to approve a wide-ranging package of support to help Somerset people deal with the impacts of the Cost of Living crisis this winter. That support includes financial assistance with food and energy bills through the Household Support Fund, a ‘Warm Welcome’ network of venues where people can find warmth and company, as well as targeted support for clinically vulnerable people in cold homes.

Bridgwater Mayor Cllr Liz Leavy serves tea at the Town Councils first ‘warm bank’

Somerset County Council declared a Cost of Living emergency in July of this year, and set-up a cross-party working group to investigate action the Council can take to help people through this period.

That group has worked closely with Mendip District Council, Sedgemoor District Council, South Somerset District Council and Somerset West and Taunton Council, as well as partners in the voluntary and community sector, to put in place initiatives to bolster the support package provided by central Government. Somerset residents struggling to pay the bills this winter could be eligible for support through the Household Support Fund. The County Council has been allocated £3.8m to distribute before March 31st 2023 as part of the third round of funding provided through the Government’s Household Support Fund. This funding will be used to provide food vouchers worth £10 a week to children eligible for Free School Meals during the school holidays, and enable people to apply for support with a range of urgent essentials including fuel, food, and white goods.

Bridgwater leads the way

Town Council Leader Brian Smedley promoting Bridgwater’s Warm Space (in between crosswords)

In Bridgwater this week the town was the first to launch a ‘warm rooms’ initiative in the town hall. Town Council leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour, Westover) said “Every Tuesday 10 to 4 the town hall will be open for anyone who wants to to drop in, find a warm space, have tea or coffee, use the computers, read the papers, meet some councillors and the wider community and to generally be supported if they need it. It’s not just a ‘warm bank’ it’s a public community building and it’s owned by everyone and so naturally we’re opening it up for the people and co-ordinating with other centres around town so that everyone will know they’ve got somewhere if they want it.”

Somerset County Council has contributed a total of £250,000 to Somerset Community Foundation’s Cost of Living Crisis Appeal fund which will be used to support food resilience, energy projects and the ‘Warm Welcome’ network. Somerset West and Taunton Council, Sedgemoor District Council, South Somerset District Council and Mendip District Council have also contributed £50,000 each to the SCF Cost of Living Crisis Appeal.

The Warm Welcome initiative is a network of venues that will offer an inviting place for people to keep warm. These venues will offer optional activities, or a place to get some work or homework done, or even just see a friendly face for a chat.

Around the County

Town Councillor Richard Morgan (Fairfax East, Labour) helping people use the computer if they want

Spark Somerset is being funded to develop the programme and build a framework, identify appropriate spaces and co-ordinate the project moving forward. Somerset Libraries will be open as usual to offer a warm and welcoming space to all. Once all of the warm spaces have been confirmed, a public map will be made available.

Spark Somerset will also be supporting food resilience in the county as part of this work, meanwhile a map of all foodbanks, pantries, and food cupboards in Somerset is being developed which will be made publicly available.

Other support this winter includes the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) Safe and Warm Somerset helpline, which supports people who are clinically vulnerable and struggling to afford their energy bills and living in a cold home.

A total of £314,000 has been provided from Somerset County Council’s Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) Grant which means that in addition to delivery of their standard offer, CSE will also take on targeted outreach to clinically vulnerable people in cold homes and help arrange the installation of insulation and heating measures to improve the energy efficiency of low income or low EPC-rated homes.

Town Councillor Liz Marsh (Victoria/ Labour) finishes Cllr Smedley’s crossword for him

The Council is using an additional £65,000 from the CEV grant to fund Open Mental Health to provide targeted face-to-face help at home for approximately 500 older adults in need of mental health support.

To make an application to the Household Support Fund, please visit: If you need help to apply, please phone Somerset County Council on 0300 123 2224. People who applied to previous rounds of the Household Support Fund are welcome to apply again in this round of funding.

To donate to the Somerset Cost-of-Living Crisis Appeal today visit: Somerset Cost-of-Living Crisis Appeal – Somerset Community Foundation ( or call 01749 344949.

For more information about support available for Somerset residents, please click here: Additional household support for Somerset residents.

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