Councillors vote for £1 million bailout of Government fund to help families pay food and fuel bills

Cllr Wasim Ali has proposed an extra £1 million to help families pay food and fuel bills
Cllr Wasim Ali has proposed an extra £1 million to help families pay food and fuel bills

Sandwell Council’s cabinet has backed a recommendation to top up the £1.4 million Covid Winter Grant scheme after thousands of people applied.

Councillor Wasim Ali, cabinet member for resources and core services, announcing the bailout said demand for help had outstripped available cash.

Saying the council would ensure it could continue, he added: “The planning for the scheme estimated there would be an average of 65 applicants daily with an average payment of £175 per applicant for the duration of the fund.

“However, while the average individual payments was within expectations the number of approved applications has significantly outstripped the amount of funding available and it is estimated that to continue receiving the applications until March 31 a further £1 million will be required.”

More than 100 people a day applied for cash grants of up to £500 to feed and keep their families warm over the winter when the fund was launched in December. That led to council bosses predicting the cash could run out long before the March cut off date.

Councillor Bob Piper, commenting on the warning, said the figures were ‘disturbing’. He said: “This is for people who are in dire straits and can’t afford to buy food or to pay their bills.

“Obviously, we are grateful for what support we can get to the most vulnerable in Sandwell.

“In my town of Smethwick the unemployment rate has doubled to ten per cent since the outbreak began in March and that’s a very serious situation.”

The bailout is being funded from a second pot of government money which has been underspent by £2 million.