Cost of living crisis: Eastbourne’s political groups split in emergency fund discussions

Discussions over setting up an emergency fund to help people with the cost of living crisis have split the two political groups in Eastbourne.

Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell met with the local government minister Kemi Badenoch last week and said she received an assurance that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities would be open to dialogue over the council dedicating a percentage of the returns from selling property assets to fund the scheme.

The council’s financial position means it has had to evaluate its £40 million portfolio to identify properties to sell.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

Mrs Ansell said, “I am really pleased the minister is open to looking at this idea and I will do all I can to help make it happen.

Cost of living crisis in Eastbourne (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

"It forms part of an amendment by my Conservative borough council colleagues at council tonight to work with government to help local people struggling with the cost of living.

“The government is open to the idea but it is really now over to the Lib Dem councillors to choose to act.”

This comes following the Lib Dem’s declaring a ‘cost of living emergency’ last week.

Lib Dem Josh Babarinde said, “The cost of living crisis that we have all been talking about for quite some time has become a cost of living emergency.”

Conservatives put forward an alternative motion which removed the declaration of a cost of living emergency.

Mrs Ansell said, “I was very disappointed that the Liberal Democrat-led borough council did not take up an idea from my Conservative council colleagues to look at dedicating a percentage of the returns from their sale of property assets to fund an emergency scheme for those in need.

"Instead, the council has made a ‘declaration’ about what it thinks the government should do and will now write a letter to the treasury telling them so.

"It is so vitally important the council uses all its own levers and resources at such a time as this. In the name of the people of Eastbourne, it holds several assets it is selling off primarily to fill a financial black hole largely of its own making, but the minister said some of this could potentially be diverted.

"It was a golden opportunity missed.”

Council leader David Tutt said, “I fear our MP may not have grasped that this is a cost of living crisis which is affecting the country nationally – not just Eastbourne.

“Whilst comments from national government are lukewarm, with words like 'to look at' and 'open to dialogue' – our most vulnerable are struggling to balance rent, food and energy and our charities are struggling to cope with demand.

"We don’t need more prevarication from government, we need action, now. A firesale of assets – as Caroline and the Conservatives have suggested – would not solve the national cost of living crisis and would jeopardise the work already done by this authority to meet council needs as a result of the financial impact of covid.

“Whilst we wait for an inevitable government U-turn, this council will do everything it can to utilise all our resources to help those most in need whilst taking the right decisions to secure the council’s long term financial future."

Read more from Eastbourne: