Councillors call for action over sofa surfing, food and fuel poverty highlighted in Skint Britain TV show

Councillors in Hartlepool have called for action over sofa surfing and poverty issues raised by a recent TV series.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 27 March, 2019, 14:58
Coun Sue Little

Coun Sue Little raised the concerns with questions submitted at the recent full meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council.

She pointed to the issues being highlighted in the recent Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits series broadcast on Channel 4, which council bosses previously hit out at for ‘sensationalising the pain’ of people in the town.

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said the council is left facing the difficulties due to ‘savage’ government funding cuts and praised the work officers are carrying out to combat the issues.

Coun Little said she has already arranged a meeting with Hartlepool MP Mike Hill over the issues to call for more support for the council.

She said: “One of the main reasons why I wanted to bring this to council, we’ve got children here starving and that really breaks my heart.

“I’m a councillor, I’m very fortunate I have some spare disposable cash every month. We’ve got families in this town who don’t have £5 to put on a meter to keep their children warm.

“We need altogether to go to our MP Mike Hill and tell him our findings. These are our residents, our neighbours, we don’t know their personal issues behind closed doors.

“We need to knock on the door and shout that our residents are suffering now in the 21st Century and we can do our residents justice.”

Council bosses said its housing advice services has been approached by 798 households since April looking for assistance to either prevent or relieve homelessness.

They also added fuel poverty data which shows the North East fuel poverty rate is 13.8%, with a rate for Hartlepool of 12.8% and since April 2018 the council has made 1,193 payments to help alleviate fuel poverty.

Council chiefs also said they had used the child and family poverty reserve over the past year to fund holiday hunger schemes to feed children, and also made cash contributions to the town’s food bank.

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Council leader Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher pointed to the impact of cuts to Hartlepool’s core government funding, which by 2019/20 will be 45% less than in 2013/14 – a reduction of £20.9m.

He said: “It highlights once again the impact of the unfair and unjust policies this government has adopted both in respect of welfare cuts and savage funding cuts on this council.

“Our council and town has suffered unfair and disproportionate cuts in government funding.

“I appreciate sofa surfing is a real issue in the town.

“As a council we cannot address all of these issues on our own as we simply don’t have the money to do so due to impacts of government cuts on our funding.

“In the face of everything we’ve faced this council and the voluntary sector has stepped up to the plate and they have been fire fighting and looking after the residents that we all represent.”

Coun Brenda Harrison also said government decisions were impacting on the council, despite good work by officers.

She said: “It’s a disgrace in this day and age that some of the residents are in the position and situation which they are and I think everybody would be in agreement with that.

“We have people in this council who are working tirelessly to try and help those people and support them.

“We have a one issue government at the moment and everything else seems to be getting lost. Hopefully once that is out the way we might get on with looking after people.”

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service