The Council leader has pledged to work in tandem with the government to provide essential financial support to those most in need in the face of an immensely challenging budget and the cost of living crisis.
Work is already under way to ensure that support is available for households in the county which have been hit the hardest by soaring inflation of more than 10% – the highest rate since the early 1980s.
The Government has now announced that councils in England are set to receive a share of a multi-million pound windfall to help the most vulnerable members of society cope with the cost of living.
The Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed that the Household Support Fund is being boosted by an extra £842 million from 1 April, the date when the new North Yorkshire Council launches.
Tens of thousands of households in North Yorkshire have already benefited from the first three rounds of the fund, which has provided cash and food vouchers to those most in need as well as access to other support. The fourth round of the Household Support Fund in North Yorkshire is now starting to be developed, and details are due to be announced in the coming months.
Council leader, Cllr Carl Les, said: “The launch of the new North Yorkshire Council marks a watershed in the way that services are provided and how local democracy is governed in the county.
“However, that will not change our commitment to support those who are struggling financially, and there is an unequivocal pledge to make sure this continues.
“We are facing immense financial challenges in North Yorkshire, like all parts of the country, but I believe by working in partnership with the Government we can provide the support that is required.”
The first phase of the Household Support Fund was launched in North Yorkshire at the end of 2021, before a second stage was rolled out in the summer of last year. A total of 20,624 households benefited under the first phase, while 39,023 received support in the second stage.
The third phase, which will come to an end on 31 March, has seen letters sent to more than 23,000 eligible households in North Yorkshire with the offer of supermarket e-vouchers for up to £325 to pay for food and other essentials.
We have also put together a co-ordinated response to the cost of living crisis to highlight the support that is available. We are working with Community Support Organisations (CSOs), which have extensive knowledge on locally-run projects. The Community Support Organisations (CSOs) can direct people to local support, such as food banks or food share schemes, community venues offering warm spaces or support groups.
Citizens Advice is also contracted by the council to deliver the Warm and Well project to help to ensure homes are properly heated to prevent poor health. The project was given an additional £260,000 in the most recent phase of the Household Support Fund.
Another initiative, the local assistance fund, has seen a dramatic increase in applications. The fund, which is now in its 10th year, provides vouchers for food and energy bills as well as clothing, electrical items and furniture to households struggling financially.
In the 2021/22 financial year, the scheme received 6,264 applications with 5,560 awards being made and grant funding of nearly £765,000. Those figures have risen in this financial year, with 10,725 applications and 9,766 awards made so far and grant spending of more than £1.3 million.
Executive member for corporate services, Cllr David Chance, said: “The demand which has increased for the local assistance fund is a clear indication of the support that is needed in North Yorkshire. It is a scheme that has been vital for thousands of households since it launched in 2013, but it remains as important now as it has ever been.”
Councillors have also used their locality grants, which allow each member a budget of £10,000 per year to respond to local needs, to support community organisations that are helping households affected by the cost of living.
The new council will be launched on April 1 when ourselves and the existing seven district and borough authorities merge in the biggest shake-up of local government since 1974 to pave the way for a long-awaited devolution deal.
However, this has coincided with massive pressures on budgets for the public sector across the country. It is estimated that there will be a shortfall of more than £30 million in the new council’s revenue budget for the next financial year, all of which will have to be covered by the one-off use of reserves after some additional savings have also been introduced.
By joining up services and maximising spending power in its first few years, North Yorkshire Council is set to recoup between £30 million and £70 million, which will become annual savings.
Council tax is now the most important source of funding for council services in North Yorkshire, and each one per cent increase raises more than £4 million towards meeting rising costs and demand. The new council’s budget will see a rise in council tax of 4.99%, equating to an increase of £83.64 for an average Band D property.
But a new policy will be adopted by North Yorkshire Council which means households in the greatest financial need will be given up to 100% reductions on council tax bills. The move has brought together different approaches used by district and borough councils to provide a single policy across North Yorkshire.