Council pledge to care for those in hardship
COUNCIL bosses say their plans for a new locally administered benefits scheme shows the authority cares about those in financial hardship.
From April, crisis loans and community care grants will be issued by local authorities rather than central government.
Funding to support Local Welfare Provision (LWP) is being provided by the Government, but the money will not be ring-fenced and could be used on other council services.
However, under plans approved by the Cabinet, North East Lincolnshire Council has decided to ring-fence the money to support residents in financial hardship.
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It has also decided to award crisis loans as non-repayable grants, rather than as loans, as they currently are.
NELC will receive just under £700,000 in each of the next two years to fund the scheme, which, taking into account inflation, represents a cut in expenditure of about 14 per cent for the scheme locally.
Councillor Darren Billard, portfolio holder for finance, governance and support services, said: "This funding is not ring-fenced. The council has decided to support its most vulnerable residents even though it is not legally obliged to do so."
Council deputy leader Mick Burnett accused the government of being a "cheapskate" over its funding for the service.
"At some point the Government is going to have to make its mind up about what it wants local government to do," he said.
"Is it about providing local services or not?
"This is another system where the Government is being a cheapskate and putting the financial onus on this council."
Councillor Peter Wheatley said: "I believe that the pressure on this type of funding is going to get greater and greater as the years go by."
He added there was "very little room for manoeuvre" because the council had only been told its funding allocation for the next two years."
Council leader Chris Shaw said: "Once again we have a scheme that is hard for central government to deliver, so they are handing it over to local government.
"They are ditching the difficult things and giving them to local government to do at the same time as taking money off us."