Cost of living crisis: What Lancaster City Council is doing to help people cope with rising energy bills

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Residents across the Lancaster district are bracing themselves for further energy prices rises this winter.

With many already in fuel poverty – defined as having to spend more than 10 per cent of income on energy bills – the expected October hike will hit households already struggling with rising food and petrol prices.

The UK’s energy price cap for households is forecast to hit £4,266 in January and The Cornwall Insight consultancy advised this week that average gas and electricity bills could first soar to £3,582 per year in October, before rising higher in 2023.

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We asked Lancaster City Council what steps they are taking to help support people who can no longer cope with soaring energy bills.

The rising cost of living is causing difficulties for many people.The rising cost of living is causing difficulties for many people.
The rising cost of living is causing difficulties for many people.

* Lancaster City Council has been awarded £555,000 to support pensioners of pensionable age of 66 by September 30 and in receipt of council tax support across the district.

Across the district, there are around 3,700 pensioners in receipt of council tax support and therefore will receive a payment of £90 towards gas and electric.

Those eligible will receive a post office voucher from mid-July issued by the Community Hub.

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It is estimated that the total amount spent on supporting pensioners will be £360,000. Of the remaining funds, just over £150,000 will be used to support food provision to vulnerable households via food clubs, banks and pantries via Eggcup.

Any remaining money will be used to support the Lancaster District Support Fund.

* £347,000 of Council Tax Hardship funding has been administered through the Community Hub since July 4 to support residents with utility bills, food, debts, housing costs, household appliances and other essential items.

Building on lessons learnt from Emergency Assistance Grants and Household Support Fund (round 1), the Community Hub wishes to support residents longer term; therefore, each application form that is received online, over the telephone and at any of the council's customer services face to face venues will be referred through to Citizens Advice Bureau.

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Once an advisor at CAB has seen the residents, the Community Hub will arrange for any essential items to be awarded to residents.

* £299,700 of funding to support households who either didn’t receive the £150 statutory energy rebate or to provide a top-up payment providing the following eligibility criteria is met:

Council Tax bands E-H on full Council Tax support will receive a £150 payment

Council Tax bands A-D on full Council Tax support will receive a £30 payment

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Council Tax bands A-D on some Council Tax support with children under five will receive a £30 payment

Pensioners over 80 on April 1 2022, in bands A – D on some Council Tax support, will receive a £30 payment

Severely mentally impaired in Council Tax bands A-D will receive a £30 payment, and in Council Tax bands E-H, irrespective of Council Tax support, will receive £150

Disabled Persons Allowance those in bands A-E higher band due to the band reduction a £30 payment and in bands F-H £150 payment.

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* The Council Housing Team employs a dedicated Energy Support Officer who can support residents with energy saving advice, support with access to grants etc.

This is undertaken with all new residents moving in and can be done for existing residents on a referral basis.

In 2021/22, 244 households benefited from advice and support. There is a dedicated Income Management Team, who alongside ensuring rent is collected, significantly support tenants to maximise their income.

During 2021/21 this team alongside other housing colleagues successfully supported residents to secure an additional £660,000 in benefits which was owed to them.

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The Council Housing Team has a robust plan to bring all council housing up to energy performance certificate C by 2030; over the past 12 months this has included phase one of the retrofit programme on Mount Avenue, as well as improving 23 of the hardest to treat properties through funding received by government. Additional measures are undertaken in a planned way throughout the year such as loft insulation top-ups, new doors/windows etc.

* Lancaster City Council says it will be listing opening times and locations of publicly accessible locally-based county council buildings and others which are free of charge and offer a warm and welcome place where people can keep warm and comfortable this autumn and winter.

Its Community Connector team will be working with voluntary, community, faith and community enterprise organisations to investigate which venues may offer help.