West Sussex County Council Leader Louise Goldsmith continues her fight for the future of a fund that provides emergency support to people facing short-term crises.
Louise has invited local MP Francis Maude to meet with her at the charity Horsham Matters to talk about the Local Welfare Assistance Fund due to be scrapped by the Government. The fund is administered locally through the Local Assistance Network.
Mr Maude, who is currently Minister for the Cabinet Office, will be urged to persuade his Cabinet colleagues to rethink this decision. The letter follows hard on the heels of a letter Louise wrote to his Cabinet colleague Eric Pickles about the Fund.
In the letter to Mr Maude, Louise invites him to meet with her and Horsham Matters’ chief executive David Sheldon to see the vital work the charity does within the Local Assistance Network – work that is threatened with the ending of the Fund.
In it Louise says that West Sussex County Council supports the Government’s plan to ask local authorities to assess local needs and provide the appropriate support.
But she adds: “The problem lies in how Local Authorities can fund this support.
“It makes sense that such support is funded from within the general fund. However, in 2015/16 our general government grant will drop by nearly £20m (from £163.2m to £144.3m).
“We received £1.24m towards providing for local need, which we used for our Local Assistance Network. It is not a huge amount of money, but the impact on people’s lives is considerable and in some cases helps people move away from the dependency culture and is often the first step towards self-reliance and financial independence – key Conservative values.
“If this fund is not available residents may well be driven towards loan sharks, which is the worst of all options for them.”
She goes on to say: “As you are aware West Sussex county Council is continually finding more savings and cutting our coat according to our cloth, but finding the additional £1.24 million at a time when resources are stretched within local authorities will be an additional pressure
“I believe this fund, in West Sussex, represents cracking good value for money. Its impact is substantial and outsourced to charities means minimal administration cost. As requests for help numbered more than 6,000 after its first year of operation, you can appreciate our concern.
“We do believe in helping people to help themselves and this is an excellent example, about which we all at West Sussex County Council feel so very strongly.
“So if you could help and support the County Council on this issue I would be truly grateful.”
The letter follows the unanimous backing by all Councillors of a Notice of Motion at a recent Full Council that expressed dismay at the Government’s decision to withdraw funding from the scheme and recognised the value of the work carried out by the West Sussex Local Assistance Network.
Pictured: Leader of West Sussex County Council – Louise Goldsmith