Furniture cash scheme backed

A NEW £50,000 council scheme to help provide struggling residents with furniture at affordable prices has been approved.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s cabinet committee backed plans for the Furniture Solutions Project.

Officers hope the scheme will help in the council’s fight against poverty by preventing people on low incomes from building up debts they cannot afford to pay back.

The Furniture Solutions Project will provide credit at reasonable rates for people to buy white goods, like fridges and cookers, and all kinds of furniture.

The scheme was first discussed by the cabinet in July but members asked for more details in terms of what other similar services are already up and running in town.

Dave Stubbs, director of regeneration and neighbourhoods, said the scheme would help more individuals and families out of the “spiral of debt and deprivation”.

He told members there were a number of community and voluntary organisations, including charity shops, offering a furniture recycling service through the sale of donated items and goods.

Mr Stubbs added: “The intention of the proposal is to initiate an innovative project that provided a holistic service offering access to finance for the purpose of purchasing from a range of high quality new or re-used products at an affordable price.

“The introduction of the Furniture Solutions Project is not intended to duplicate or compete against services being offered by local organisations and agencies.

“It is designed to add value, strengthen and expand provision, and potentially join up existing providers.

“Each service area had common goals and by joining together could achieve impressive and mutually beneficial outcomes.” Before the meeting a number of organisations contacted the council to express an interest in the delivery of the project.

In the report, Mr Stubbs added: “The feedback from existing providers had been positive, viewing the project as an opportunity that would assist in achieving the organisation’s aspirations.”

Cabinet members noted the report and approved the funding for the scheme.

The scheme will be run by an independent operator and funding of £50,000 has been earmarked in council coffers to help launch it.

To begin with the target audience for the scheme is anyone likely to be affected by financial exclusion.

Those who take part in the project will also be directed to partner agencies for help with money and debt management, benefits, budgeting skills, and advice on grants and loans and money-saving tips.

The tender process to find a project host is expected to start in September, although there has already been interest shown.