IGN learnings

Managing the cost of living crisis

Ign profile 2023 10 16 140009 rarp

Inclusive Growth Network

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High inflation and rising costs of consumer goods, caused by increasing energy costs, supply chain bottlenecks and the fallout from the pandemic, are causing a major squeeze on living standards for residents across the UK.

This session with IGN lead officers marked the beginning of a network-wide conversation on the cost of living crisis and places' responses to this. Specifically, we explored the levers that IGN members are drawing on to alleviate the pressure of rising inflation on residents and discussed how places are framing longer-term resilience to shocks and fostering inclusive growth.

Key learnings

Understanding the challenges

  • Some places are committing significant resourceto better understand the potential local impact of rising prices. South Yorkshire Combined Authority in particular have sought to build a considerable evidence base that looks through the lens of people and businesses to inform their ongoing response.
  • Funding pots are short-term and limiting. Funding streams, such as the Housing Support Fund, are too small, short-term and conditions can limit the freedom of local authorities to use funding most efficiently and effectively. Many places are drawing upon other pots to finance their cost of living response.

Developing solutions

  • The networks of stakeholders that were built in response to Covid-19 pandemic have retained significant importance, particularly among the community and third sectors, and the integration of support services between internal departments. All places are looking to build upon the holistic approaches that the pandemic encouraged in their cost of living responses.
  • Places are increasingly shifting to a community hub model of service delivery and many are looking to expand on this. There was a collective belief that this model is better suited to delivering support to more marginalised communities by bringing together access to information, advice and support across a range of council services and activities.
  • There are several interesting pilots ongoing within the network  many of which demonstrated real ingenuity and creativity in delivering support with limited resource. Examples include Leeds City Council piloting a ‘cash-first’ scheme, offering cash rather than food and fuel vouchers, and North of Tyne Combined Authority running a pilot of delivering community and welfare services through schools.

Looking to the long-term

  • The cost of living crisis has brought forward the urgency of the development of longer-term strategies, specifically in those areas such as fuel poverty, food poverty, and skills, that are directly related to how places navigate their way out of this crisis and build up their long-run resilience concerned with different issues relating to the crisis.
  • Creating more good, high-paying and secure jobs is the key long-term focus of many local and combined authorities. Specific reference to the importance of good work and examples of local action to encourage the creation of good jobs came from Bristol City Council, North of Tyne Combined Authority, and Greater Manchester Combined Authority. Efforts to encourage take up of living wage accreditation were also seen as central to achieving this ambition.
  • Retrofitting is a major opportunity, improving energy efficiency, improving the quality of housing, reducing household costs and creating new jobs.

Contributions from this discussion have been used to inform the Centre for Progressive Policy's report Hard up: How rising prices are hitting different places, and how they can respond. It offers policy recommendations to give areas the financial power and agency required to support residents and businesses, both in immediate response to the crisis, and to recover and rebuild in the long term.