Cost of living crisis: Portsmouth City Council to be asked to declare 'cost of living emergency'

CITY councillors will next week be asked to declare a 'cost of living emergency' and call on the government to take 'urgent' action to ease pressure on household budgets.
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The deputy leader of Portsmouth City Council will put forward a motion at Tuesday's full council meeting in response to concerns that thousands of people in the city 'are facing impossible choices' in the face of rapidly rising energy and food prices.

Suzy Horton said it wasn't just ‘making it difficult’ for people to make ends meet, as some people in the city are being forced to make a choice between 'heating and eating'.

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'The cost of living crisis is affecting everyone but it will eat away at people on lower incomes who don't have as much disposable income,' she said. 'Portsmouth is a relatively poor city with a lot of people who were just about managing but this will tip many over the edge.'

Money is tight as the cost of living increasesMoney is tight as the cost of living increases
Money is tight as the cost of living increases

Her motion will be seconded by councillor Steve Pitt and, if backed, would see the council make a series of demands of the government to help:

- Impose a windfall tax on the super profits of oil and gas companies and to use this to take an average of £600 off the cost of Portsmouth residents' energy bills this year.

- Urgently review the energy cap regime in order to provide much greater protection to consumers, as other European countries have done.

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- Undertake an investigation into forecourt fuel prices, and put in place transparency on fuel taxes and independent regulation for solid fuels/ petrol and diesel.

- Demonstrate a real and immediate investment in UK renewables and decarbonise the energy sector.

- Immediately reduce the standard rate of VAT from 20 per cent to 17.5 per cent for one year, saving the average Portsmouth household a further £600 this year

- Immediately reintroduce the pensions triple lock to support Portsmouth's pensioners

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- Immediately reintroduce the £20 a week uplift for Universal Credit claimants

It warns that the expected further increase to the energy price cap later this year, combined with the rising price of fuel and food, and the National Insurance increase were exacerbating the problem.

And Cllr Horton said the government was not providing enough support to help ease financial pressures.

'There's been some grants coming through but they don’t touch the sides in terms of the difficulties thousands of people are facing at the moment,’ she said. ‘Things are only going to get more difficult as we move into winter and thousands more people in Portsmouth will be really struggling.'

In the 12 months to June more than 5,000 food parcels were distributed by foodbanks.

The Trussell Trust said foodbank use had increased by 81 per cent over the past five years.

Cllr Horton said the council had introduced measures to support people, including providing grants, and that voluntary groups were continuing to offer help in the city but she said the government needed to do more.

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A separate 'warm places' motion will also be proposed by Labour councillors Judith Smyth and Graham Heaney on Tuesday in response to the ‘devastating’ cost of living crisis and the expected increase in pressure this winter.

‘Homes should be a place of warmth comfort and safety,’ it will say. ‘Heating is an essential and not a luxury. No one should have to leave their home because they can't afford to keep it warm.

‘However, sadly this is the reality that many face. For some this will be disastrous in a cold winter. It is therefore necessary for the council to take action and plan to meet that need so that we are prepared.’

It will urge the council to step in ‘by ensuring that welcoming warm places are made available across the city in every community for public use’ by opening up libraries and community centres through outreach services for families and older people.