Council pledges to help Hartlepool’s most needy families

Gill Alexander and Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher.
Gill Alexander and Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher.

Thousands of Hartlepool’s hardest-pressed families will get more help from council chiefs in 2016.

That’s the promise from Hartlepool Borough Council chief executive Gill Alexander in an interview with the Hartlepool Mail.

We are doing everything we can do to help hard-pressed families. We have set a budget for the coming year and various departments will come up with proposals

Gill Alexander

She, and leader Christopher Akers-Belcher, gave time to talk candidly about important issues such as unemployment, redundancies, and the struggles facing some of the town’s hardest-hit people.

As part of the budget preparation for 2016/17 a £500,000 child and family poverty reserve has been established.

Its three-year aim is to help ease the burden for people feeling the financial strain.

But it is only one aspect of the support which will step up in the year to come.

The rest will depend on reports being compiled by council departments which will be presented in the next few weeks.

Ms Alexander said: “We are creating a reserve of £500,000 to tackle family poverty.

“We are doing everything we can do to help hard-pressed families. We have set a budget for the coming year and various departments will come up with proposals.

“Those reports will be coming through in the New Year. It is about being more innovative and making the money go further.”

Statistics show 33 per cent of Hartlepool’s children are living in families which are officially recognised as suffering from poverty.

It is one of the highest rates in the country.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “We recognise that times are getting harder, but we want to look at whether there is anything we can do further as a council to help families that are in need.”

Free school meals and swimming sessions in the summer holidays are part of the plan which will be extended in 2016.

All this comes just a week after the council revealed it faces a cut of over £4.8million for the 2016/17 year, £2million more than the anticipated £2.8million cut in grant.

But Ms Alexander said this was an authority intent on dealing with problems in ways which “don’t make a fuss”.