Coun Peter Box: 'Money was tight and every penny counted...I know many residents face the same stuggle'

Here is this week's column by Wakefield Council leader Peter Box.

It’s clear that most residents know we provide services such as bin collections, road maintenance and street lighting as well as support for children and our older and more vulnerable people.

Coun Peter Box

Coun Peter Box

But would you think about turning to your local council if you were having a tough time with your finances?

Well perhaps you should, because in times of need, we are here to help and by accessing our support services it can often help prevent a problem from becoming a crisis.

Anyone can go through a tough time, especially as a result of a job loss, an illness or another unexpected life event. From personal experience, I haven’t forgotten when I was much younger, my wife and I struggled to get by. Money was extremely tight and every penny counted. I also know that today many residents face the same struggle.

These days the most common issues that are affecting people are housing problems, debt and other financial issues. This is why we have taken steps to help people make a difference to their situation.

Between April and November 2018, our Housing Needs Service helped 1,354 households to either prevent or relieve homelessness.

And in almost the same period, we spent £1million to help vulnerable people who had shortfalls between their rent and housing benefit through the Discretionary Housing Payments and Local Welfare Provision.

We also provide a Money Smart Scheme for home owners, offering advice on how to reduce fuel bills, make homes warmer, and help with money management and paying bills.

This is just a snapshot of what we can do to help. There are many other services and partner organisations that provide support and you can find out more information here or by calling us on 0345 8 506 506.

As well as helping people in immediate need, I am also looking at a longer term plan, through our Economic Strategy.

A key aspect is to develop sustainable places and communities and to develop skills, talents and jobs here within the district, which will give all residents a good quality of life.

Research shows that ten per cent of adults of working age in Wakefield have no qualifications, which is above the national average, and limits people’s opportunities.

We are working closely with partners to back employment opportunities, through apprenticeships, support for local businesses to offer training and to help enable people to get higher skill levels so they can access better paid jobs.

The need to consider both the immediate and long term future of our district, is something that has been closely considered in our proposed budget for 2019/20.

We have set out a range of plans to help us deal with a £22.2million funding gap but have also put forward ambitious plans to invest in the district and our residents.

This balance between making efficiencies and delivering investment will, I believe, help drive our district and our residents forward in the years to come.

Our ambition is to deliver the best possible services and help improve people’s quality of life and so if you are struggling – we are, and always will be, here to help.