Fight against ‘poverty premium’

THE poorest tenants in South Gloucestershire could be automatically put on to the cheapest energy tariffs after the council passed a motion to fight the ‘poverty premium’.

Councillors voted in favour of proposals to stop residents on the lowest incomes being forced to pay more for essential services such as bills, loans and insurance.

The Liberal Democrat motion was backed by Labour while opposition Conservatives abstained, saying they supported it in principle but that it lacked details, such as the cost of the work to the local authority and officer time required.

A council meeting on October 18 was told one in five low-income households in the district had to fork out an average of £400 more each year – collectively nearly £9 million in total – than their more affluent neighbours via expensive pre-paid meters, more expensive credit and a lack of free-to-use cash machines, known as the ‘poverty premium’.

Council leader Claire Young said: “We cannot stand idle while a significant portion of our community is unfairly burdened with extra costs.”

Cabinet member for cost of living, equalities and public health Alison Evans (Labour, Woodstock) said people without access to a car were more likely to shop at corner shops than cheaper supermarkets – and also bought a higher proportion of cheaper processed food, leading to “unhealthy children and unhealthy families”.

The motion called on the government to address the additional costs for the poorest residents urgently, and committed the council to take local action, including working with social and private landlords to ensure every tenant is placed automatically onto the cheapest suitable energy tariff.

Ben Burton (Conservative, Frenchay & Downend) said: “My fear is that the rushed nature of this motion with insufficient details has the potential to inadvertently harm vital services or activities that are supporting the most vulnerable in our communities.”

By Adam Postans,

Local Democracy Reporting Service