Sadly, our hardworking Mayor, Sara Butler, is not well enough to write her column this week, so she has kindly offered her space to me, as Leader of the Council. It’s a great chance for me to tell you about the what’s worrying us the most.
Our task, as a Council is to support the town and all our businesses, to manage green and healthy spaces, to enable and support our many great community groups, to create a safe and attractive town that people want to visit, to promote a healthy economy, to encourage a healthy lifestyle and to do the best we can to look after our residents, all the while being conscious of our need to reduce carbon emissions.
There’s one thing, however, that has totally absorbed us since the start, and that is the cost of living crisis and the rise in poverty levels that are becoming more and more widespread in our town.
More people are struggling with fuel bills, more people are desperate for social housing and more and more people are needing to use the food bank, as they struggle with incomes that just aren’t enough.
At our last Council meeting, we heard from Citizens Advice Mendip about the increase in calls for their help – people increasingly desperate to find ways to keep their heads above water. With the increasing number of Covid cases hitting Somerset, life for some can easily feel overwhelming.
I’m here to tell you that working on alleviating this issue of rising poverty will be a priority for us as a Council. We’ve already created a working group who will be dedicated to researching the data, discovering and liaising with all the community groups already working in this area, determining the gaps in provision, and enabling the formation of support groups to fill them.
Until then, there’s much we can do to help ourselves. Seeking early help with debt issues, checking out available help within the town by using FIND on the FTC website (link please), making sure that we have all the benefits we’re entitled to (Citizens Advice Mendip link) and supporting each other in our communities, exactly as we did so heartwarmingly during the pandemic.
This Council is innovative, energetic, and resourceful. We’ll be pulling every string, badgering higher authorities and looking for solutions, but first and foremost, we’ll be listening to you – gathering information about how YOU think we can help.
I’m sure Sara will keep you updated in her future columns but until then, keep those chins up, please take care of yourselves, and our best wishes to Sara for a speedy recovery.
Leader of Frome Town Council