As the national cost of living crisis continues to grow, our poorest residents are once again most impacted.
Wages and welfare payments are stagnant, while corporate profits in some sectors skyrocket. Inflation is being felt by all of us, as energy bills, fuel prices, and food costs rise. With national insurance contributions also set to rise, we know that the crisis is being experienced by many Bristolians. The price cap for energy bills is set to rise to more than £3,500 in October. Some energy industry analysts have predicted that average annual energy bills could hit £7,700 from April 2023, with the figure even higher for businesses. With 30,000 families in our city already living in fuel poverty, with even more already spending 20% or higher of their household budgets on energy.
For deprived communities, a crisis in the cost of living is not new. Families in Bristol were already over £40 million worse off at the start of the year after national government’s cuts to Universal Credit. 40,000 children in our city are growing up in poverty – a number that is set to rise. We have never accepted this reality, and won’t start now. National government urgently needs to do more to support people, particularly those who are struggling most.
In Bristol, we are continuing to try to support Bristolians wherever we can. Our new cost of living support website has all the latest information to help, as well as a handy benefits calculator, guidance about rent, and training to develop your skills if you are looking for work.
We’ve invested £1.8 million in free holiday activities and food over the summer holidays, through Your Holiday Hub, as we work to ensure that no child goes hungry in our city. We have also committed £4 million to support local community groups through our new Community Resilience Fund. And we continue to supporting over 35,000 households with up to 100% off their council tax bills through our Council Tax Reduction Scheme, worth £40 million a year. Our Local Crisis Prevention Fund is available to support people too, alongside emergency payments for items like school uniform.
For the longer term, we continue to work to make Bristol a Living Wage City, where the real Living Wage is the benchmark for all. The number of Living Wage employers in our city has increased ten-fold since we took office in 2016, and more than 5,000 workers in Bristol have had a pay rise onto at least the real Living Wage. This is also the basis of our approach to reign in high rents in our city too, as we develop a model of a “Living Rent” which is affordable and fair in our city’s large private rented sector. As we continue to bring new jobs and investment to our city, we will keep building a diverse and inclusive economy where nobody is left behind.
As we look to the colder months, we’re also developing a city-wide network of warm, “Welcoming Spaces” for people to visit so they don’t have to choose between heating and eating this winter.
Throughout the pandemic, our city has pulled together. We Are Bristol – and we need to keep supporting one another through this next crisis.