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Cabinet to decide on £165,000 of grants

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THE PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL Cabinet will meet next week (Monday, Nov 2) to decide on grants totalling almost £165,000.

The Cabinet will consider nine recommendations for approval for grants under the Second Home Council Tax – Community Element Enhancing Pembrokeshire Grant scheme.

The scheme uses funds from raised from a Council Tax premium on Second Homes and empty properties in the county.

Among the projects applying for support is Age Cymru Dyfed, which wants to promote and provide outreach services from Haverfordwest throughout Pembrokeshire.

The Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre is applying for money to help the centre gain nationally recognised museum accreditation.

And a project by Resilience Network Pembrokeshire seeks to champion and develop allotments, encouraging new sites and community growing land.

The Cabinet meets remotely at 10am on Monday, Nov 2 and the meeting will be webcast live.

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Over 400,000 families in Wales to receive new Cost of Living Payment this Spring

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OVER 400,000 families in Wales will continue to receive direct financial support from Government, with the first of five Cost of Living Payments – worth £301 – hitting bank accounts this spring.

After confirming the payment schedule for five cost of living payments through the 2023/24 financial year, The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has today announced in Parliament more detail on the support.

This includes estimates of how many people across the UK, and in each local authority and parliamentary constituency, will receive the first £301 Cost of Living Payment and the £150 Disability Payment, which follows on from up to £1,200 in support for low-income households in 2022.

Work and Pensions Secretary, Mel Stride said: “These direct payments will help people right across the UK over this year and the start of the next, as we continue to provide consistent, targeted and substantial support for the most vulnerable.

“Our wider support package, including the Energy Price Guarantee, will ensure every household is being helped through this challenging period of high inflation, caused by Putin’s illegal war and the aftershocks of the pandemic.” 

Secretary of State for Wales David TC Davies said: “It’s good to see that over 400,000 of those most in need in Wales are getting financial support from the UK Government with direct payments. We recognise the impact of the current high cost of living, and we are doing all we can to provide help to the most vulnerable households.

“This is just one part of a wider package of support we’ve put in place to combat the effects of high inflation caused by current global pressures.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt added: “High inflation, exacerbated by Putin’s illegal war, is hurting economies across the world and making people poorer.

“These payments are the next part of the significant support we are providing through this challenging time, with millions of vulnerable households receiving £900 directly into their bank accounts this financial year alongside additional help for pensioners and those with disabilities.

“This latest payment will provide some temporary relief, but the best thing we can do to help families and businesses is to stick to the plan to halve inflation this year.”

Exact payment windows and qualifying periods for eligibility will be announced in due course, but are designed to ensure a consistent support offer throughout the year. Payment windows will be broadly as follows:

  • £301 – First 2023/24 Cost of Living Payment – during Spring 2023
  • £150 – 2023 Disability Payment – during Summer 2023
  • £300 – Second 2023/24 Cost of Living Payment – during Autumn 2023
  • £300 – 2023 Pensioner Payment – during Winter 2023/4
  • £299 – Third 2023/24 Cost of Living Payment – during Spring 2024

There are several benefits that could make claimants eligible for the £301 Cost of Living Payment, including Universal Credit and tax credits – through which 5.4 million households across the UK are expected to qualify, and Pension Credit, through which 1.4 million pensioner households are expected to be paid. 1.3 million will be eligible through legacy DWP benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance and Income Support, reaching a total of 8.1 million households.

Eligible individuals do not need to apply for payments, as they are made automatically. Those eligible for cost of living payments through tax credits, and no other means-tested benefits, will be paid by HMRC shortly after DWP payments are made.

This builds on the Government’s wider support package, which includes further funding for the Household Support Fund, bringing its total value for October 2021 to March 2024 to over £2 billion. The fund is distributed to English councils, who know their areas best and are then able to offer direct support for those most in need in their local area. Every household with a domestic electricity supply is also benefitting from the Energy Price Guarantee, which is saving the average household around £900 this winter and a further £500 in 2023/24 by capping energy costs.

Benefits will also rise in line with inflation from April, which will see a 10.1% increase for pensioners and those on the lowest incomes, whilst the National Living Wage will see its biggest ever cash rise, bringing it to £10.42 an hour.

This all follows on from 2022’s support package, which included:

  • A £650 Cost of Living Payment for means-tested benefit claimants, split into two payments, each of which supported over eight million households
  • Further £300 and £150 payments, which reached over eight million pensioner households and six million disabled people respectively
  • A £150 Council Tax rebate for all households in Council Tax bands A-D in England
  • A £400 energy bill discount for all households, which will continue to run through March 2023
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Council takes steps to focus social housing allocations for those in greatest need

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CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL says that it is taking the first steps towards delivering on Welsh Government’s Rapid Rehousing approach by introducing an Emergency Social Housing Allocations Policy to focus the way the housing needs of residents are met in Carmarthenshire.

The Emergency Policy, developed by Communities Scrutiny Task and Finish, will be considered by the Committee on Thursday 26th January and has been created to help address housing pressures and reduce the time that those in greatest need wait for social housing.

The Policy will enable direct matching of homes to applicants most in need, such as those who are homeless, are at risk of homelessness or in urgent housing need. It will also enable homes to be allocated more quickly and to those residents they are most suitable for.

The proposed Emergency Social Housing Allocations Policy has three defined bands:

Band A: Additional preference – Those who are homeless, are at risk of homelessness or have an urgent housing need.

Band B: Housing need: Reasonable preference – Including residents who need to move due to medical/welfare needs, are looking to transfer to a smaller property (under-occupying), want to move from an adapted home they no longer need or are currently living in an overcrowded/insanitary property.

Band C: Applicants who have no housing need

Applicants who can financially meet their own housing need, do not have a local connection to Carmarthenshire or they/a member of their household have been found guilty of unacceptable behaviour will be given no preference under this Policy.

As a part of the Policy, applicants will be sent reminders to re-register their interest on the 6 and 12 month anniversary of their registration date. Failure to re-register, to use their account or to bid for properties that meet their needs may mean that applicants will be removed from the Housing Register to ensure that only those in need of the service are registered. Help to do this will be provided for people who need it.

Cllr Deryk Cundy, Chair of the Scrutiny Task and Finish Group responsible for developing the Policy said: “As Chair of the cross-party working group that developed this Emergency Policy, I am delighted to be able to present this Emergency Social Housing Allocations Policy to Scrutiny. I am confident that if approved this will have a major impact on the lives of residents in housing need in Carmarthenshire.”

Cllr Linda Evans, Cabinet Member for Homes said: “If approved, the Emergency revised Social Housing Allocations Policy will transform the way social housing is allocated in Carmarthenshire.

“By more clearly defining the needs of those on the housing register, the Council can provide suitable housing more quickly to those who need it by directly matching properties to applicants. Only if a property cannot be matched to someone in exceptional circumstances or Band A of the register will it be advertised on home finder website, Canfod Cartref.”

If approved at the Council’s Scrutiny Committee, the Policy will be considered by the Council’s Cabinet and then submitted for Full Council approval.

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Anger as Pembrokeshire misses out on latest round of ‘Levelling Up’ funding

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CEFIN CAMPBELL, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales, has criticised the UK Government’s methodology for allocating funding under its ‘Levelling Up Fund’ after a UK Government announcement today revealed that Pembrokeshire will not receive any funding.

A total of eleven projects in Wales have been allocated around £208 million from round two of the Levelling Up Fund. The UK Government has claimed that these projects will create jobs, drive economic growth, help restore people’s pride in the places where they live and spread opportunity more equally.

However, Pembrokeshire is among eleven Welsh local authorities that have not received any money under today’s announcement. This comes despite announcements that wealthier areas, including Rishi Sunak’s constituency of Richmond in Yorkshire, will receive funding.

Responding to the UK Government’s announcement, Cefin Campbell MS said:

“Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Carmarthenshire are amongst the eleven Welsh local authorities that will not receive a single penny from today’s ‘Levelling Up’ round.

“This is despite the real need for ‘levelling up’ in these communities across mid and west Wales – with rural poverty, a housing crisis and poor infrastructure continuing to hamper economic growth and opportunities.

“The Tories promised that Brexit would leave Wales no worse off, and that European funding would be replaced, pound-for-pound. This promise has rung disgracefully hollow, with Wales now looking at a funding shortfall of £1.1bn compared with previous EU schemes.

“The way in which the ‘Levelling Up’ Fund has been allocated appears to reflect cynical political decision-making rather than any real assessment of Wales’ material need – and appears to be little more than a Tory stich up.”

Ben Lake MP, Plaid Cymru Treasury spokesperson added:

“Between 2009-2020 local authority spending per head in Wales fell by 9.4%. The idea that we should now be grateful for the privilege of competing over a small pot of money is frankly insulting. The arbitrary and ad-hoc way in which Westminster is allocating this funding is not conducive to the kind of cohesive long-term economic planning needed to break the poverty cycle.

“From the outset, Plaid Cymru have called for funding to be allocated according to need. If the UK Government want to redeem any credibility on ‘levelling up’, they should revise their criteria so that Wales receives funding according to our relative need.”

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