To consider the report from Executive Councillor for Community, Councillor Chris Booth.
3.2 of the Scrutiny Terms of Reference state that the Scrutiny Committee may review and scrutinise and ask questions of the Leader, lead Councillors, the Executive in relation to their portfolios.
Various policies and support initiatives are being put in place to deal with the cost-of-living crisis.
· Cost of Living Emergency Fund to be distributed via CAB. There is currently 50K set aside for this budget.
· Household Support Fund – Administered by SCC.
· The Community Pantries at Rowbarton and Minehead are at capacity and operating well. Rockwell Green Pantry is due to open imminently. These are stocked by Fareshare (ambient food) with some surplus being provided by other suppliers. Users are currently charged £3.50 per week across all the pantries and the team are testing to see if there is some degree of consistency around this. The offer needs to be standardised so that participants know what they can expect for their money.
· CCTV is proving to be a challenging multi-agency project due to the variety of equipment in the different geographical areas. There is a need to replace old hardware in some areas which adds to the cost of the service.
· Somerset West Lottery. Work is now being undertaken to merge this with the Mendip lottery to create one lottery for the whole of Somerset under the new unitary authority.
· The grants scheme has now been taken back in-house from Somerset Community Foundation, so is administered by the SWT team led by Christine Gale. It was noted that SWT was rarely recognised for its grants when the foundation was assessing them in the past, so this will now be rectified. A lot of work to support the VCSE through grants and support is continuing together with assistance from Spark. Spark have also been helping the West Somerset Food Cupboard become a charity, vet volunteers and attract funding for their projects.
· The TYCC – legacy funding has now been allocated to the YMCA building for repairs to the roof, as well as distributed to the equestrian centre at Norton Fitzwarren.- Cllr Lisgo queried this and asked for the criteria on which these applications had been assessed. (Christine Gale followed up this query which has been progressed on the Written Answer Tracker).
During the debate the following points were raised:
· West Monkton also has established a community fridge, but this is a separate scheme run by the parish council. All volunteers are expected to hold food hygiene certificates. This is open to the public.
· Wivey Food Shares and Wivey Grows are also tackling food poverty in the Wiveliscombe area. Would be good to tap into and support this resource.
· Cllr Martin Peters asked whether the 50K budget allocated to tackle the cost-of-living crisis could be increased to help more people. This money has been earmarked from a previous underspend in last year's budget. If more funds can be found from other sources this will be supplemented, but at the present time this is limited to the 50K.
Cllr Lisgo reiterated the recommendation that was passed by Full Council to ensure that the VCSE was financially supported during the transition to the new unitary authority, and this would continue for the first year of business.