Nottingham City Council (NCC) has urged the Government to rethink its plans to cut the Local Welfare Provision (LWP) grant from April, which will hit local vulnerable people hard.
As part of its welfare reforms, the Government set up the LWP fund for councils to hand out to people facing severe hardship, with NCC allocated £3.6m over the last two years.
More than 3,000 people have benefited, with over £900,000 helping people with food and fuel costs, £400,000 used for an emergency loan scheme through Nottingham Credit Union to avoid exorbitant payday lenders, and £2m allocated to a Council Tax Support Scheme to limit the level of contribution from low income households
NCC’s deputy leader, Councillor Graham Chapman, said: “These funds have been a lifeline for people facing real financial hardship. Taking them away will result in real suffering for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. It’s an utterly unfair move for the Government to suggest councils should provide this support from their own budgets, when the same Government is cutting our budgets, and hitting hardest those councils which serve the poorest communities.”
Sherwood MP Mark Spencer said: “It is important for both local and national government to ensure that support is available for the most vulnerable people in our society. This presents big challenges following a huge recession caused by an overspending Labour government. NCC has under spent this budget in the past. Councils need to think carefully about how they prioritise spending in the future. There is nothing to stop NCC from helping those in need but to blame the current government for the council’s own inability to manage their finances is lazy politics.”
The Government says it is planning to scrap the fund from April and has asked councils for views on ways it may provide some ongoing support for vulnerable people.
NCC says options involve raiding council budgets which themselves are being drastically cut by the Government and so the City Council has asked for the existing grant from the Department for Work and Pensions to continue.
The council also warned the Government of a ‘postcode lottery of support,’ pointing to evidence which shows that those councils serving disadvantaged communities have greater need for the LWP grant and so if it was scrapped, would struggle harder to find from their own budgets the larger funds needed.