Impossible to ignore Authority announces £250k for frightened residents as prices soar

Cost of Living: Scorer warns of 'horrific' winter for some Brits

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Eastbourne Borough Council announced the ‘Cost of Living Emergency Grant’ scheme on Thursday, which includes an immediate payment of £20,000 to Eastbourne Foodbank. The foodbank, which was labelled the “busiest in the country” by the Trussell Trust, will be able to help an additional 1,000 local people with the funding. The announcement from the Liberal Democrat-run authority comes after the local foodbank found a staggering 78 percent increase in people using the service in the first three months of 2022.

Reflecting on the soaring demand, Howard Wardle, Chief Executive of Eastbourne Foodbank, told “We have seen quite a change over the past two years with numbers increasing.

“We’ve recently started to see a number of retired people pensioners coming to us who have suddenly found the increase in fuel costs and food costs are more than their pension can manage.

“We’ve also seen a lot of absolutely desperate people, people that have just got absolutely nothing – if we didn’t give them something to take away to eat then they would be in real trouble.”

The first phase of payments will immediately aid Eastbourne Foodbank and other local organisations that support people who are struggling with the soaring cost of living.

Subsequent phases will support local people to manage further increases in their energy bills in the autumn.

Mr Wardle told about one encounter with an elderly gentleman seeking help which had stuck with him.

He said: “We had an elderly gentleman come to me at the warehouse. He knocked on the door – and actually looked very much like my father, which was quite scary – and he said, ‘can I talk to you? I’m really frightened and I don’t know what to do.’

“I thought that he’d been chased by somebody or something had happened, so I asked him to tell me a little bit more.

“He said ‘I’ve just had a bill except I don’t know what to do. I can’t pay it. I haven’t slept last night – I’ve come to you because I’m frightened.’”

The gentleman expressed concern that he would be forced to sell his car which would prevent him from being able to help his wife.

Mr Wardle took him to the advice centre to talk through his options and assess whether he was eligible for pension credit.

“The problem with those situations is quite often, absolutely nothing we can do to increase a person’s income and we can’t do anything to reduce our outgoings. It’s just the perfect storm really,” he added.

In addition to a growing community of people needing foodbanks, Eastbourne has disproportionately high rates of child poverty compared to the rest of the region – 18 percent up from 13 percent in the southeast more generally.

There is also a higher level of people claiming unemployment benefits – five percent rather than three percent as seen in the rest of the southeast.

The Eastbourne Borough Council ‘Cost of Living Emergency Grant’ comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a windfall tax for oil and gas firms to help tackle rising bills – a measure originally called for by the Liberal Democrats and backed by Labour.

Mr Sunak told the Commons that the new measure would “help families with the cost of living,” while avoiding “having to increase our debt burden further”.

The one-off tax on the companies’ record profits is expected to raise £5billion in the next year.

Josh Babarinde OBE, Eastbourne Liberal Democrat councillor and Parliamentary Candidate, told “Declaring the UK’s first ‘cost of living emergency’ in Eastbourne has made our town’s voice impossible to ignore. The Government has since been forced to U-turn and introduce a Windfall Tax.

“While the government has been dithering, I’m proud that Lib Dem-run Eastbourne Borough Council has shown decisive leadership and has this week launched the ‘Cost of Living Emergency Grant Scheme’ of £250,000 to provide immediate support to local people struggling to put food on the table.

“This is how we do things in my wonderful hometown of Eastbourne: we don’t turn a blind eye to people’s struggles, we roll up our sleeves and tackle them head-on.”

Mr Babarinde – who was honoured by the Queen for his work helping ex-offenders and gang-affiliated youth move away from a life of crime – campaigned for the ‘emergency’ status after observing “harrowing” demand.

Despite feeling “devastated” by the escalating crisis, he said he felt “hopeful” that the community could pull together.

Mr Babarinde added: “Across the whole town, there’s a really vibrant community and charity sector.

“Eastbourne is the kind of town where people want to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in to help people.

“We have the kind of streets and neighbours all around collaborating and supporting one another – Eastbourne has been doing that for donkey’s years.”

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