Issue - meetings

COVID-19 Support Fund

Meeting: 20/07/2020 - Cabinet (Item 8)

8 COVID-19 Support Fund pdf icon PDF 200 KB

This report seeks approval for a proposal to introduce two new support funds using the surplus money from the Council Tax: COVID-19 Hardship Fund 2020-21.

Additional documents:

Decision:

NOTED the comments from Councillor Kelcher highlighting the recommendations made by the Resources & Public Realm Scrutiny Committee when considering the proposals outlined in the report, at their meeting on 14 July 2020.  Having recognised the economic as well as health and social impact impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on local residents, the Committee had welcomed the proposed establishment of the new support funds and made the following recommendations in support:

·             That the Covid-19 Interest Free Loans eligibility criteria should be extended to include debt;

·             A member development session be arranged on the new support funds and their referral process;

·             That information already held be used to proactively offer advice and support for vulnerable local people;

·             A review of debt collection processes be undertaken in light of Covid-19 to ensure that the circumstances of vulnerable people adversely affected by the pandemic were fully taken into account.

 

Cabinet RESOLVED to

 

(1)    Note the proposals set out in sections 5 and 6 of this report to introduce two new support funds using the surplus money from the Council Tax: COVID-19 Hardship Fund 2020-21.

 

(2)    To approve the establishment of a grant facility to assist Brent residents financially impacted by Covid-19 as set out in section 5 of the report (“Covid-19 Support Fund Grant”).

 

(3)    To delegate to the Strategic Director for Customer Services in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Housing and Welfare Reform authority to agree eligibility criteria for the Covid-19 Support Fund Grant above and thereafter administer and award grants.

 

(4)    To approve the establishment of an interest free loan arrangement to assist Brent residents financially impacted by Covid-19 as set out in section 6 of the report (“Covid-19 Support Fund Loan”).

 

(5)    To approve payment to the Credit Union of such sums remaining in the Council Tax – COVID – 19 Hardship Fund 2020 – 21 and at such frequency as the Director of Finance considers appropriate from which Covid-19 Support Fund Loans will be made and delegates to the Director of Finance in consultation with the Director of Legal, HR, Audit and Investigations authority to finalise the terms of the investment.

 

(6)    To delegate to the Strategic Director for Customer Services in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Housing and Welfare Reform authority agreement of the final eligibility criteria based on the draft eligibility criteria in Appendix 2 for the Covid-19 Support Fund Loan and thereafter administer it in association with the Credit Union.

 

(7)    To delegate to the Strategic Director for Customer Services in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Housing and Welfare Reform authority to review and agree revised eligibility criteria for both the Covid-19 Support Fund Grant and the Covid-19 Support Fund Loan for the reasons detailed in paragraphs 5.16 and 6.19 of the report.

 

(8)    To support and approve the following recommendations made by the Resources & Public Realm Scrutiny Committee being taken forward as part of the development and implementation of the new support funds:

 

(a)    That the Covid-19 Interest Free Loans eligibility criteria  ...  view the full decision text for item 8

Minutes:

Councillor Margaret McLennan (Deputy Leader and Lead Member for Resources) introduced the report, and highlighted that it had been produced in partnership with the Lead Member for Housing and Welfare, Councillor Eleanor Southwood. Cabinet noted that the Authority had received £3.9 million in funding from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government for the creation of a hardship fund, with the expectation that a contribution be given to all residents of working age in council tax support. When these grants had been discharged £2.6 million remained available, and the report outlined a proposal to distribute the remainder through the creation of two new support funds.

 

Councillor Muhammed Butt (Leader of the Council) then welcomed Councillor Kelcher to the meeting who had requested to speak on this item as Chair of the Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee, in order to outline the comments and recommendations made by the Scrutiny Committee when they had considered the proposals within the report, at their meeting on 14 July 2020.

 

Councillor Kelcher advised that the Scrutiny Committee had recognised the economic as well as health and social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on local residents, amd as such had welcomed the proposed establishment of the new support funds and made the following recommendations in support:

 

·                That the Covid-19 Interest Free Loans eligibility criteria should be extended to include debt;

·                A member development session be arranged on the new support funds and their referral process;

·                That information already held be used to proactively offer advice and support for vulnerable local people;

·                A review of debt collection processes be undertaken in light of Covid-19 to ensure that the circumstances of vulnerable people adversely affected by the pandemic were fully taken into account.

 

As comments made during the discussion, Cabinet further noted that the creation of interest free loans distributed through a credit union would provide sustainable support beyond the March 2021 deadline set by government for the distribution of the funds, and were informed the schemes had been reviewed as part of the Poverty Commission. Councillor McLennan also took the opportunity to thank officers for their work on the report, noting that schemes would assist many local residents in hardship.

 

In expressing their endorsement for the proposal, Cabinet noted the alleviation the schemes would provide to those residents not eligible for alternative support, and the importance of developing the borough’s mutual sector. Whilst noting that authority had been delegated to officers to determine the criteria for the allocation on the scheme, Cabinet requested that these criteria be circulated to all Members as soon as developed. The Strategic Director of Finance agreed to this request, highlighting that the grant programme was due to launch on 1st August, followed by a tender exercise for selection of a credit union and the launch of the loan scheme on the 7th August.

 

It was RESOLVED that Cabinet:

 

(1)          note the proposals set out in sections 5 and 6 of the report to introduce two new support  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8