Plans to help thousands of residents struggling with the cost-of-living crisis have been unveiled today by Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram.
In a week energy prices rose sharply again for many households, the Combined Authority is earmarking nearly £4.7m to support the voluntary and community sector to provide financial advice, alongside supporting digital inclusion.
And a further £3.3m will be spent on community activity to tackle food poverty, improve green spaces and reduce anti-social behaviour. Under the £2m cost of living proposal, the Combined Authority would partner with Citizens Advice and the Women’s Organisation to boost support and advice services to residents hardest hit by soaring prices.
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If approved at next week’s Combined Authority meeting, the cost of living support programme could start as early as November and would see specialist staff employed to support residents towards relative financial stability. Further details will be released closer to the launch.
Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “With the cost of living crisis putting a bigger and bigger strain on people’s outgoings, mental health and wellbeing, I want to do what we can to ease the burden on local residents.
“For people in our region to flourish and prosper, they need support to make it through this difficult period ahead. Despite the fact that government have cut more than a third from the funding that they promised us, we’re choosing to invest nearly £5m to give families access to the support they need.
“While national government dithers, devolution is giving local leaders the ability to step in and step up for local people. In the Liverpool City Region, I want to make sure no one is left behind.”
The cost of living plan features in the city region’s wider plans to invest its three-year, £44.4m UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) allocation. The UKSPF has been created to replace European funding following Brexit. Under UKSPF, Liverpool City Region is set to lose around £10.2m annually compared to its previous European Union allocation – a cut of around 37%.
Speaking previously on the loss in funding, Mayor Rotheram said: "The UKSPF was heralded as a ‘replacement’ for European funds but instead, our region is set to lose out on millions of pounds every year. Whereas government are rowing back, we’re stepping forward to ensure no one is left behind.”
The city region’s UKSPF spending plans come under three priority areas: Community and Place, Supporting Local Business, and People and Skills.
More than £17m will be used to support local businesses including £1.5m for town centres and nearly £4m to drive innovation. Business support plans are being finalised but will include a combination of expert support, advice and grant funding – with the bulk of the programme earmarked for next year and beyond.
£14.5m will be allocated to People and Skills projects, starting in April 2024, and nearly £11m will support Community and Place. That will include £2.4m for culture, arts and heritage - with detailed plans being drawn up.
Government approval of the city region’s UKSPF investment plan is expected in October however tight timescales mean that work is already underway to prepare for delivery. The Combined Authority has a Year 1 spending target of £5.386m by March 2023 - with tackling the cost of living crisis regarded a priority. If approved, delivery could start as quickly as November 2022.
Local authority-led work to support town centres, culture and heritage, and activity to tackle anti-social behaviour, food poverty and to improve green spaces will also be in the Year 1 spending plans. In addition to the core SPF funding of £44m, the city region will receive £8.4m from the SPF - ringfenced to deliver the government’s Multiply programme to improve adult numeracy skills.
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