The Leader of the Opposition, Councillor S Fletcher, noted the recent Government announcement of a new Household Support Fund and asked how much of the £500m that was available would be allocated to Lancashire and specifically to residents of the borough.
The Leader thanked Councillor Fletcher for his questions and confirmed that the Household Support Fund was to provide small grants for food, clothing and utilities and was intended as a lifeline for those at risk of struggling to keep up with their bills over the winter as other support measures were removed. The fund would be administered by County Councils and Unitary Authorities from October 2021.
The Leader understood that at least 50% of the total funding had to be spent on families with children and then in terms of the type of support available, the expectation was that the fund would primarily be used to support households in the most need with food, energy and water bills.
He reported that the Government had awarded Lancashire County Council £9.6m but at this stage it was not certain how much of that would be allocated to Ribble Valley residents.
Next Councillor Fletcher welcomed the draft Ribble Valley Borough Council Climate Change Strategy that had been produced and acknowledged the work of officers and Members in creating that document. He asked if the Leader could explain the key steps that had been taken so far with regard to the strategy and the timetable in place to ensure that the Council met the stated aspiration of being a carbon-neutral borough by 2030.
The Leader confirmed that the Climate Change Strategy had been adopted at the last Policy and Finance Committee. The Council had already commissioned independent experts to assess the Council’s carbon footprint prior to the strategy being completed and that had been a key measure of both the current position and how far the Council had to go. The Leader said that it was clear from the work done so far that for the Council to achieve its carbon-neutral objective, much would depend on the Government’s approach to energy decarbonisation.
The Climate Change Working Group, together with officers, would now be tasked with looking at the action plans and devising a timetable and implementation plan that would make the goal of being carbon-neutral a reality.
Finally, Councillor Fletcher noted that young people throughout the borough were frequently priced out of home ownership in their own community and asked if the Leader would agree that the upcoming review of the Local Development Plan must secure and increase the portion of affordable housing in any future developments and also that those developments be distributed appropriately throughout the borough, with due consideration being given to the maintenance of the borough’s remaining green spaces.
The Leader confirmed that the new Local Plan would be supported by a comprehensive evidence base which would establish the housing needs within the borough. This need would include affordable housing and special housing, along with the distribution of housing across the borough. Suitable policies would be developed to ensure that new housing developments were delivered within the right location and within an appropriate mix of housing. The plan would also seek to protect the intrinsic beauty of the valley and locate new development within sustainable locations.