Politicians have declared a cost of living emergency in Islington as they said people are in need of help now.
Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter
The emergency was declared unanimously at Islington’s full council meeting after new councillor Saiqa Pandor who proposed the motion said the cost of living crisis “isn’t necessary in the fifth wealthiest nation in the world that children should go hungry.”
More than 11,500 Islington families are currently living in fuel poverty with 27,400 people in households receiving housing benefit or council tax support, according to council figures.
Cllr Pandor blamed the crisis on the goverment and said the council will help residents with a range of measures including focusing on wages, the living wage, and business support.
The motion won backing from the Green opposition. Their leader Caroline Russell said: “Islington residents have borne the brunt of the government’s enthusiasm for austerity.” She said there were “a hundred different ways to serve up austerity, misery and suffering” and said “people need help and they need help now.”
Declaring an emergency does not attract any extra government funding.
Council leader Labour’s Kaya Comer-Schwartz said: “The cost of living crisis is already having a real impact for thousands of our most vulnerable residents, our poorest households, the elderly, and the disabled. Many are already at breaking point and fearful for what the future holds. “
She said the emergency was declared as there “is only so much the council can do” and it wanted “to show we’re committed to stepping up where the Government has not, and so we can continue our mission to make Islington a more equal place for all.”
The council urges the government to match the national minimum wage, currently £9.18 to the real living wage, currently £11.95 in London and £10.90 eleswhere, boost Universal Credit in line with inflation and provide free school meals for all children.
Islington offers free school meals for all primary school children. Other steps they want include rent controls and support for skilled green jobs. They also want the energy price cap frozen at £1,971, rather than the £2,500 cap announced by Prime Minister Liz Truss and called for more business rate relief for small firms.
The council is taking steps to trim its own costs after its heating bills soared by £30m over the last year. It has recently announced that it is cutting the hours it will run the communal heating at 57 buildings from 18 hours to 13 hours a day, which affects the energy bills of 12% of its tenants and leaseholders.
Other steps include cutting council tax bills for 19,000 low income families and a £2.6m cost of living support scheme and using £17m to “effectively cancel business rate bills this year for nearly 4,000 smaller businesses.