The leader of West Sussex County Council has urged Secretary of State Eric Pickles to reconsider scrapping a fund providing support to people facing short-time crises.
Writing in the County Times last month, Louise Goldsmith said she was ‘dismayed’ that the Government was withdrawing the Local Welfare Assistance Fund.
Now Mrs Goldsmith has written to Mr Pickles, urging him to maintain the fund.
At the full council meeting last week, county councillors unanimously backed a notice of motion that expressed dismay at the Government’s decision to withdraw funding from the scheme, and recognised the value of the work carried out by the West Sussex Local Assistance Network.
Mrs Goldsmith described the network as ‘cracking good value for money’ and thanked members for their support.
She said: “It is a fine example of cost-effective preventative early intervention very much in line with the county council’s belief and policy to help people to help themselves and we are happy for our process to be used to help other authorities.
“We recognise that the design, set up and delivery of the new assistance will place an additional burden on local authorities and we are committed to ensuring that this is funded in full by Central Government.”
In the letter, Mrs Goldsmith invited Mr Pickles to West Sussex to see the network’s development in the county.
She added that the county council will be tasked with the ‘burden’ of replacing the withdrawn funds.
She said: “When the fund is withdrawn we are seriously considering that in West Sussex we will have to continue funding our Local Assistance Network.
“For us this represents an unfunded new burden of around £1.24m a year, which means we will have some unpalatable choices ahead of us in deciding where in our budget the £1.24m sum will come from in future years.
“We are continually finding more savings and cutting our coat according to our cloth, but finding the additional £1.24million at a time when resources are stretched within local authorities will be an additional pressure.”
Writing in the County Times on Thursday March 27, Mrs Goldsmith described the fund as a ‘Godsend’ to those in financial need.
Horsham-based charity Horsham Matters responded to the news in the same edition of the newspaper.
A spokesman said: “With the funding that Local Welfare Assistance Fund has provided we have been able to provide furniture, white goods, fuel card top-ups and food to well over 600 local individuals and families.
“Without this support we know that the people we have been able to help would really be struggling and in some cases would not have been able to afford to eat.
“This funding is absolutely critical to the welfare of local people and removing it will leave some of the most vulnerable people in our local communities unable to support themselves.”