Harlow Labour councillor slams Tory plans for warm banks in the town

News / Fri 30th Sep 2022 at 06:43am

A MEMBER of the Harlow Labour Group has slammed Tory plans to introduce “warm banks” into Harlow as part of a cost-of-living strategy.

Netteswell councillor, James Griggs said: “Conservative-led Essex County Council has released its ‘Cost of Living Support for Households and Communities Plan’- Whilst any support is to be welcomed, there are some serious concerns about the reach and effectiveness of the plan and whether it goes any further than helping people to find better ways to be poor.

It suggests a community led ‘Winter Warmth and Welcome’ campaign to provide local places for winter warmth. Warm Banks by any other name. This is tackling the issue from the wrong direction, it is acknowledging that people may not be able to afford to heat their homes rather than assisting them with the cost of doing so. Some people may well like the idea of a community club where they can socialise but this should be an optional extra, not a necessity. 

The plan speaks of ‘looking at the root causes of cost-of-living pressure, such as access to skills and good jobs’. Are they seriously saying that low pay is the reason for this mess? Low pay is a huge issue and one which lays firmly at the door of the Conservative Government having suppressed wages for all but the well off, claiming that wage rises fuel inflation. Last weeks mini-budget destroyed that argument by giving tax breaks to the wealthy and reinstated unlimited bankers bonuses, a reckless gamble, that caused a disastrous drop in the value of the pound leading to the extraordinary situation of the IMF rebuking the Chancellor. 

Harlow had the fourth lowest average hourly wage in Essex in 2021, while putting in the longest hours: in short, Harlow people work more and earn less. Harlow also has an estimated 4000 workers on zero-hours contracts. How can people be expected to budget their income when they have no idea what it will be from week to week?

Conservative Deputy Leader of ECC speaks of support measures for residents “…so that they are more able to cope with future pressures.” There is nothing offering any solutions to the problem, merely a sticking plaster to temporarily patch up the damage. The best way to help people cope is to increase their wages and reduce their costs.

ECC are allocating £17.6m to help residents improve energy efficiency. It’s a lot of money but equates to less than £27 per household in the county, just what is that expected to achieve? Much of the help announced is not new and many of the initiatives appear to rely on an already overstretched voluntary sector to provide services and signposting. 

Money management education is also on the agenda. This could well be a useful tool for many in the long term but it won’t help anyone who is struggling right now. How do you budget carefully when you have no money in the first place? It really does look like ECC is focusing on educating residents to be poor in a more efficient way! 

£120,000 for the Citizens Advice network in Essex is welcome but far too little.

£50,000 to offer free legal advice will be eaten up in no time at all. How many people do they expect this sum of money to assist?

A partnership with UK Power Networks to create a Priority Service Register to help the vulnerable receive speedy assistance during power cuts is far from a new policy. My mother has had this facility available for years from her energy supplier.

The crisis we are now facing has not suddenly appeared. In June of this year Harlow Poverty Alliance hosted a conference addressing many of the issues leading to poverty and the looming cost-of-living crisis. This was an excellent event that gave an insight into the many causes of poverty and also to the impact of it on residents. It also highlighted some of the support measures available in Harlow.

Not one of Harlows’ Conservative County or District Councillors attended this event. Robert Halfon MP did attend but only for the closing Q&A session. All of them have been silent on the matter since with the notable exception of Mr Halfon asking us to ‘give the new PM and Chancellor a chance’ at the very time when their financial incompetence has been exposed to the world with the pound crashing due to their reckless actions.

As I have previously said, any support is to be welcomed but this all feels like it’s too little with ECC being too late to respond. It would perhaps be better to take the money on offer, along with the money used to create this plan, and share it out as a direct support payment to each Essex household but even that would only amount to around £78 per household.

Finally, we must not forget that the majority of the money on offer from ECC is our money in the first place from either local or national taxation. This will undoubtedly have to be recouped somehow and will require one of two things to happen in the future, either higher taxes to repay it or a reduction in the provision of ECC services. 

“Labour have made clear that the people and businesses who are making vast profits from rising energy costs should be the ones being made to pay with a massive windfall tax, but that is not the Conservative way”.

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5 Comments for Harlow Labour councillor slams Tory plans for warm banks in the town:

2022-09-30 09:46:36

No doubt he was just a vocal against 2 years of lock downs,and the printing of Billions of pounds to pay people to stay at home. Which is the cause of this soaring inflation.

2022-09-30 13:10:13

40 years ago my mother in law would spend her days in the local library or riding around on buses to keep warm. Nothing changes but the name. Older people have always had problems with the cost of keeping their home warm, and the fear of not being able to pay the bills.

2022-09-30 13:24:48

Look time and again people say 'if we pay less tax we're better off' but I think this is profoundly untrue. Public sector (industries owned by the government) are in a dire place currently. Tax cuts have been at their expense, probably more-so than ever, since 2008. This should be how you judge a government. How it schools our children, how it cares for us and our families health, how it keeps us safe in our homes and on the streets. I can't see how you feel you are better off with an all time low in staff levels of schools, hospitals, police and emergency services.

2022-09-30 16:15:04

I remember the good old days, where “warm banks” were better known as pubs

David Vincent
2022-09-30 22:10:37

The Trades Union Congress stated in July this year: "Government inaction has left 3.7 million people in insecure work. Despite the Government’s promise to make Britain the best place in the world to work, huge numbers of workers don’t know when their next shift will be or if they will be able to pay their bills. It is notable that five years after the report of the Taylor Review of modern working practices that most of its flagship measures remain unimplemented. And the employment bill ministers repeatedly committed to appears to have been shelved. Instead, the government has sought to attack trade union rights by imposing a levy on unions, making it easier for agency workers to be brought in for striking workers and upping the damages employers can claim for industrial action. We need a new approach that restores power to workers to negotiate better rights."

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