I fully understand the impact of growing inflationary pressures on struggling residents, which is why I have called a special Test Valley Partnership meeting next week to come up with an action plan to try to help people further. The borough council is already providing a wide range of support to individuals and families – including £815,000 to the Citizens Advice Bureau over the next three years to provide advice on benefits, debt reduction and other help practice ; the work done by our housing service to place people in housing and help them stay there; pay the £150 energy rebate; administer food stamps under the Household Support Fund; provide support for housing taxes and housing allowances; help develop networks of local groups who often work with the most needy people in communities; and internally, we moved all of our lower paid workers to a higher pay bracket.
Although we don’t have infinite resources, I’m sure there are ways to do more. The special Test Valley Partnership Meeting will provide a platform for partner organizations to discuss what we are all already doing, identify gaps and consider if there is anything else we could do locally to help. Be it signage, other practical support or perhaps even one-time targeted assistance to the organizations involved.
In the spirit of cross-party work – and in recognition of the scale of the problem – I invited the Leader of the Opposition, Cllr Celia Dowden, to co-host this meeting with me and I am delighted that she agreed. I look forward to working with her and other members of the partnership to do what we can to help people through these difficult times.
Finally, a big congratulations to the Lionesses, who became European champions last weekend. A massive boost for women’s football and women’s sport more broadly. My daughter was encouraged to stay awake longer. In fact, we were blessed with another female sporting role model this week as our very own Holly Mills from Hurstbourne Tarrant competed in the heptathlon at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. A true inspiration to all of us.