[Cllr Robin Moss, Leader of the Labour Group]
B&NES recently announced setting up a Warm Spaces Network to help those in financial difficulty with energy bills this winter. However, say members of the labour Group, it isn’t substantial and they have come up with their own five-point action plan.
Launched this week, the Council’s Warm Spaces Network plan asks local groups to tell them about local warm spaces. The Council will add them to its warm spaces map, after they sign up to a Warm Welcome Charter.
But public spaces can be very hard to reach in rural areas,say the Labour group, and may only be open for a few hours a week. That’s why they think the Council’s plan must be followed up with more substantial action.
“Sharing information and using libraries can’t be the Council’s whole solution,” says Labour’s Leader Cllr Robin Moss (Westfield). “We’re working with many community and church groups who’re ready and willing to provide warm spaces, but just can’t afford to. B&NES must help them to help local people – practically, and where necessary, financially.”
“Community groups want to tell local residents that they can be confident about being warm. They can’t unless the Council takes action right now.
“There is no time to waste. It’s already mid-October. As predicted, inflation’s over nine per cent, energy is twice the price of last year, and people’s lives are getting darker and colder by the day. The Council must urgently help our communities run their warm spaces with clear and practical help,” he said.
Paulton’s Labour councillors Liz Hardman and Grant Johnson also stress that the Council must make sure there’s transport between homes and potential warm places. But sadly, transport is being used as a warm space by some. Westfield’s councillor Dr Eleanor Jackson said, “I am already encountering residents riding round and round on rural buses to keep warm.”
In summary, the Labour Group calls on the Council to act quickly:
- Build the capabilities and capacity of community organisations to support the Council’s efforts: DBS checks, volunteer training, refreshment facilities, insurance, secure fuel storage, risk assessments and more
- Make sure no resident is more than a ten-minute journey from a warm space
- Provide secure and hygienic weekend and evening facilities
- Provide community transport systems to enable access and safe travel home
- And wherever possible, placing local facilities e.g. food banks on-site.
“This is no small job and we have to throw everything we can at it. As we head into winter, with predicted overnight frosts fairly soon, it’s our moral duty to protect vulnerable members in our community,” said Moss. “The Labour Group are ready and willing to support the Council, and hope they will be working with us to do that soon.”