Wandsworth Council is committed to supporting residents through cost of living pressures and has developed a range of immediate actions through a community-focused cost of living programme.
Underpinning the delivery of Wandsworth's cost of living programme, is a newly created £5 million crisis reserve fund to support residents and businesses, in partnership with the voluntary and community sector.
Alongside this work, and with a longer-term focus, an independent Cost of Living Commission has been set up. Its brief is to identify potential actions that Wandsworth Council, its partners, the wider community, regional and national government could take to address the longer term systemic issues and drivers of the cost of living crisis for local people. Over the course of a year, the commission will hear from residents about how their lives are being impacted by the rising cost of living, and will help to shape the borough’s longer term response to supporting them.
An independent commission
Wandsworth Council set up the independent commission in recognition that long-term change and action is needed to support residents with this and future crises. It brings together 15 experts and borough residents including faith and community leaders, academics, subject matter experts and representatives from partners such as health, Wandsworth Chamber of Commerce and the Wandsworth Youth Council. Their work will focus on four key elements of cost of living pressures: food, housing, fuel and transport.
The commission’s core task is to determine what actions Wandsworth can take to mitigate the crisis for borough residents. It will:
- Examine and define the multiple factors which are driving cost of living pressures in Wandsworth.
- Review national and local evidence and case studies looking at the causes and impacts of cost of living pressures.
- Engage with local communities using a place-based approach to gather lived experiences, views, information and solutions at a community level.
- Consider the whole-system drivers and impacts and develop system-based solutions.
Where appropriate, use these recommendations as the basis for representations to regional and national government policy and civil society measures and interventions which would support Wandsworth citizens impacted by cost of living.
A place-based approach
The commission is using a place-based approach to develop a series of medium- and long-term recommendations which can be used to inform systemic changes in Wandsworth. This place-based objective is supported by a range of approaches, including:
- Evidence-gathering sessions in community venues across the borough, with invited witnesses representing community organisations, campaigning organisations, the business community, and other experts.
- Independently facilitated focus groups with specific communities, particularly those whose voices would not otherwise be heard.
- A call for evidence from organisations.
- Online surveys to seek the input of local residents and businesses.
Reverend Ian Tattum, a local vicar and Joint Chair of the Commission, said:
“Along with hearing what people are experiencing, we are also getting many practical ideas about short-term mitigations and long-term structural changes that could make a massive impact on the cost of living crisis.”
Immediate support for residents
Wandsworth Council has rolled out an extensive programme of cost of living support, which includes:
- coordinating a network of ‘Wandsworth Warm Spaces’
- a school uniform support scheme to help lower-income families
- a package of support measures for financially vulnerable households
- food support, including a food offer through children’s centres
- an online cost of living hub and dedicated phone line.
Councillor Kemi Akinola, Deputy Leader, said: “We have launched a range of measures to support our residents through the cost of living crisis, and we will continue to develop initiatives to see what we can do to help our residents through this difficult time.
“However, the council is clear that long-term change and action is required to deal with this and any future crisis. The commission will therefore focus on longer term solutions and interventions, to complement the immediate action being taken by the council and partner organisations to support our communities.”
The commission will conclude its work in the winter of 2023 with a final report and recommendations. This could include recommendations on specific outcomes within the remit of the council and local partners, but may also include campaigning positions for future work.
- At the time of writing, the commission was at an early stage in its programme of work. Commissioners agreed that it needed to run for enough time to gather good quality evidence and enable effective and comprehensive community participation.
- The importance of having robust and detailed baseline data and agreeing the definitions of phrases such as ‘food insecurity’ and ‘fuel poverty’ to support the future measurement of the impact of interventions.
- The value of using a place-based approach to support the iterative development of solutions that work in the context of the local area.