Cost of living crisis: Dewsbury councillor urges bosses to open up community centres and libraries for people to keep warm this winter as energy bills rise

Council bosses in Kirklees have been urged to investigate opening up municipal buildings to people who may not be able to afford to heat their homes this winter.

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Thursday, 28th July 2022, 11:15 am

As the cost of living crisis worsens, it has been suggested that community centres and libraries could offer warm spaces for those struggling to cope.

Speaking at a meeting of Kirklees Council’s overview and scrutiny management committee, Coun Jackie Ramsay (Lab, Dewsbury South) said some people were “in for a very difficult winter”.

She added: “We are going to look at residents and households where it really is a choice between heating and eating.

Coun Jackie Ramsay (Lab, Dewsbury South), pictured at last year's Kirklees Council elections

"One of the things that’s been discussed a lot is warm zones. I wondered if you’d started to think through winter, and think through what potentially we could use as warm zones."

Council leader Shabir Pandor said he had spoken with his opposite number in Bristol, Marvin Rees, and discussed how that authority was doing something similar to what Coun Ramsay had suggested.

He said: “Marvin said it was a good idea, but it’s very early doors. [However] we do need to do everything that benefits the residents.”

Chief executive Jaqui Gedman said the council had been re-looking at what it delivers on a day-to-day basis and whether that needed to be “through a cost of living lens”.

She said the council was considering whether it needed to “flex” what it was doing to respond to challenges and have both an immediate and long-term plan.

She added: “We are currently looking at how we may use council buildings, particularly through the winter period – libraries and those kinds of things – to encourage people not only to come and get warm, but potentially to come and eat as well.

“There’s a number of things that we are looking at, hoping that it won’t come to that, but I think it’s prudent of us to make plans for the impact.”

She assured members that the council did not have “a very narrow focus” on its public buildings, and that the authority was looking at what other community buildings were available, where they were located, and how they could be supported as costs rise.

Ms Gedman also said there was an extra focus on staff currently working from home who may wish to return to the office to deflect some of the impact of the cost of living crisis.

That will also be a consideration for the council in the months to come.