Agenda item

To receive the following Question from:

Councillor Tim Thomas to the Cabinet Member – Resources:


'Will the Cabinet Member for Resources comment on what this Council is doing to tackle the cost-of-living crisis for County Borough residents?'





Cllr Tim Thomas to the Cabinet Member – Resources




Will the Cabinet Member for Resources comment on what this Council is doing to tackle the cost-of-living crisis for County Borough residents?




The Council has provided support to residents in the County Borough via a number of different means in recent times and is continuing to do so now.


Discretionary Housing Payments

Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) are paid from a cash-limited budget, provided by the Department of Works and Pension, and are intended to help people meet housing costs, usually where there is a shortfall between their Housing Benefit (HB), or housing element of Universal Credit (UC), and their rent. A DHP can only be awarded if the claimant is claiming HB, or UC with housing costs towards rental liability.

A DHP can be awarded for a rent deposit or rent in advance for a property that the claimant is yet to move into if they are already entitled to HB or UC at their present home, and also payments for past housing costs (including arrears of rent).

These payments are emergency payments and the council has to ensure that any payment reaches those who are most in need. The initial allocation of funding to Bridgend in the current year is £253,067.

We do promote these services via our own resources and also work with free advisory organisations such as CAB, who offer free advice to residents and promote this support.


Council Tax Reduction Scheme

The Council Tax Reduction Scheme helps people on low incomes to pay their council tax. This support is provided via an application process and individuals can receive this help to pay their council tax whether or not they are receiving other benefits, working, unemployed, caring for an adult or child or retired.

The total financial support provided to individuals in Bridgend via this route is estimated to be £15 million in the current year. Currently 12,671 individuals or families are receiving financial support via this scheme.

Again, information on how to claim this support is available via our website.


Fuel Payments

During the last financial year, the Council acted as an agent for Welsh Government and paid the Winter Fuel bills monies. This scheme supported eligible households with the cost of heating their homes throughout the winter months and provided applicants with a one off £200 payment. The scheme was open to households where someone was claiming universal benefit, income support, working tax credits, means tested welfare benefits, income related job seekers allowance or employment and support allowance.


In total 8,649  payments were made, totalling £1,729,700


Cost of Living Scheme

The cost of living scheme is another Welsh government initiative which is being managed locally by this council. The scheme is intended to provide support as Wales recovers from the pandemic and support households to deal with the impact of increasing energy and other costs. The criteria for accessing the scheme has been set by Welsh government. Each eligible household within the county borough will receive a payment of £150.


The total funding allocated to Bridgend for the main part of this scheme is £7.514 million, with a further £1.236 million towards a discretionary scheme that the Council will also be administering, and the funding for both should be distributed by September 2022.


Business Rate Relief for businesses in the area

Support has been given to local businesses via the Small Business Rates Relief Schemes and the Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Rates Relief Scheme to ensure they can continue to trade to support the local economy and maintain employment levels in the County Borough.

Through the Small Business Rates Relief scheme 3187 businesses in Bridgend with a rateable value below £12,000 receive relief on a sliding scale of between 0% and 100% depending on their rateable value.

Currently there 267 are businesses that are benefiting from 50% Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Rates Relief.


Council Tax 2022/2023

In setting the revenue budget for the current year, the Council agreed to a 0% Council Tax increase. Within the budget report it states clearly that the rationale for this was to support the citizens of Bridgend to deal with the rising cost of living, such as increased energy and food bills, other inflationary increases, mortgage interest rises and national insurance increases.

Free Parking

During the pandemic the council has had a generous parking offer of free parking for 3 hour in its primary car parks.



We have been providing capital grants across the County Borough for business and new home owners, to bridge the gap in being able to get on the property ladder or to allow businesses to operate differently.


Since March 2021, £371k in grant has been awarded to 23 new home owners in our Valley communities to enable them to get on to the property ladder and bring back into occupancy previously vacant residential properties in their local communities.


Almost £600k of capital grants were also given to 83 businesses across the County as a result of covid to invest in their premises and in outdoor spaces. The changes enabled businesses to remain viable and operational, and will support their business going forward.


Food Poverty

The community pantries were established as part of our RDP (LEADER) funded project on Sustainable Community Venues.  The project was refocused at the beginning of the pandemic to provide relief to residents in terms of access to affordable food. 

The aim of the pantries was to provide an affordable bag of food per week (£5/bag) and the income went directly to cover the costs of the food deliveries from FareShare Cymru and the membership fee each centre had to pay FairShare to be part of the scheme.  The remaining money went straight into the community centres to support their costs which supported the overall aims of the project to support community centres to thrive and continue to provide services to their communities.

The Council funded the pantries until October 2021 and it is now being delivered through a Community Interest Company who have secured funding from a number of other sources.    This is a real success story for BCBC as not only was the project very successful in supporting communities in rural wards but it went on to continue post pilot phase and has created a CIC and associated jobs.

Up to October 2021 we supplied 6037 bags of food equating to approximately 53,750Kg of food.

In addition to the community pantries, the Council is helping to support the mobilisation of Welsh Government Big Bocs Bwyd scheme across the County Borough.  The scheme supports a network of ‘pay as you feel’ shops based in converted shipping containers in school grounds.  Called the Big Bocs Bwyd project, there will be 60 of these projects in situ across Wales by the end of 2022 and Bridgend Local Authority area has received the largest number of these projects in one county  – 16 in total.  These Big Bocs Bwyds provide affordable food, to both the school families and the wider communities. 

The Council is part of the Food Poverty Network of providers, co-ordinated by BAVO, and has worked with BAVO to deliver a capital/revenue grant fund to support community organisations addressing concerns within their localities. 


Employability Bridgend

Through the Employability Bridgend programme, the Council continues to provide training opportunities and assist our residents back into work through initiatives such as “Employability Bridgend” which supports disadvantaged participants across the whole Council, regardless of location, by offering a suite of interventions that aim to break patterns of multi-generational worklessness and poverty. 

The schemes work closely with community venues, particularly with our new UK Community Fund project (Connect, Engage, Listen, Transform) CELT to ensure that we are providing services locally that meet a local need.

From April 2021 to end of March 2022, the Employability Team helped 954 people from Bridgend engage in the programme, including 84 people who were already in work being supported to improve their labour market position;  342 people have achieved qualifications and  556 have gone into work.


Supplementary Question from Councillor Tim Thomas:


Having had discussions with various constitutions who had budgeted for the Cost of Living payments, could the Cabinet Member Resources provide an apology for the delay in payments that had caused great concern for constituents.




The Cabinet Member Resources stated that the delay had been undesirable. However it was important to ensure due process was given and that the payments were made correctly to the people that needed them.


The Chief Officer Finance, Performance and Change added that approximately 30,000 out of 50,000 payments have already been completed. However the process was being looked at to see if any further improvements could be made to speed the process up.


Supplementary Question from Councillor Maxine Lewis:


Was there any further funding available to assist in food poverty in Bridgend.




The Cabinet Member Resources stated that there was a discretionary element to the cost of living payment provided by Welsh Government and some of that would be used to support the food pantry.


Supplementary Question from Councillor Ross Penhale Thomas:


Could the Leader provide an update on the poverty truth commission suggestion that was put forward.


The Leader stated that not much progress had been made on this element due to the challenges that BCBC have had throughout the pandemic however he would speak to the officer involved and ensure an update was provided.