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Hardship fund hard at work

CASH from a special fund set up by Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson is making sure that children from deprived backgrounds get a decent meal during the School Holidays. And with the UK Government's roll out of Universal Credit,  due for September, the fear is more families and individuals will need to turn to the cash strapped local authority for help. These are just some of the findings of a Liverpool City Council Cabinet report into the work of The Mayoral Hardship Fund.  In its 1st year of operation, the fund has paid out nearly ₤300,000 to support low income families. The fund was created by Mayor Anderson as a lifeline to those who are struggling to make ends meet. The ₤2m pot provides financial support with 'basic need' items including:- food, fuel and clothing. It can also help to provide money for access to service such as:- financial advice, budgeting and legal advice.  A report to the City Council's Cabinet released on 6 July 2018 says it was created in anticipation of the potential effects of the Government's Welfare Reform Programme, falling incomes and the increasing cost of living.  The hardship fund is 1 of range of crisis help provided by the City Council, which also includes:- the Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme and Discretionary Housing Payments. The report says:- "The increasing strain on many households are clear from growing reliance upon crisis support whether this be from the Council's Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme, foodbanks across the City or other sources in the community. Citizens may struggle to meet everyday living costs, particularly when faced with an unexpected bill or costs for an emergency."

Anyone can apply for support from the Mayoral Hardship Fund and all applications are judged against a strict set of criteria. The money is provided for families and individuals, but also for specific initiatives aimed at reducing hardship in specific City Council wards. Over the 2017, 23 awards were granted to support 'food costs.' In 1 ward, funding was provided to cover transport costs to allow people to visit a foodbank. In another it provided food hampers for people who would struggle over Christmas. In total ₤70,000 was spent on ensuring children from deprived backgrounds get a nutritious meal during the School Holidays.  Funding has also been used to provide computers at a Liverpool community centre to allow residents to do job searches and to help children with their homework. The progress report into the Mayoral Hardship Fund comes with a stark warning; when Government Welfare Reforms like Universal Credit, begin to bite, more people will come to rely on support from the Council.  Earlier in 2018 the Council published its assessment of the potential negative effects of welfare reforms in the City. It concluded that people with long term illnesses, families with children, women, older social housing tenants and young people would all be hit hard. Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said:- "This year the Council invested more than ₤23m in supporting people in our city who are struggling to make ends meet. Yet by 2020 our funding from the Government will have fallen by and eye watering ₤444m. Now we are bracing ourselves for the introduction of welfare reforms that appear to punish the very people they were supposed to protect. Our analysis shows that measures such as the Bedroom Tax have hit disabled people in our communities. The reduced benefit cap unfairly targets people who are either unable or not required to look for work, whilst Universal Credit  actually leaves hard working families on low incomes with less. The inference is clear; the more that is taken away from people by National Government, the more they will need support from other sources paid for by local taxpayers. We are committed to doing all we can to help, but against a backdrop of ever dwindling resources, something will have to give. We will continue to raise these issues with the Government in the hope they will accept some of the unintended consequences of these reforms and take the time to re-consider introducing them."

The Council's cabinet accepted the update report on The Mayoral Hardship Fund. For more information, visit Liverpool City Council's website and search for Mayoral Hardship Fund. You can also call:- 0800 456 1523 to find out more and make a claim.

Metro Mayor Secures ₤50,000 Compensation for Southport for Rail Disruption

SOUTHPORT will receive ₤50,000 to offset the economic impact of the Northern Rail debacle, thanks to an intervention from Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region. At a meeting of the Transport for the North board, which was open to the public, Metro Mayor Rotheram called for Southport to be included in the compensation package scheme. The final compensation scheme, agreed by Transport for the North, and paid for by Northern, will go to areas across the North that have suffered economically as a result of rail disruption following the introduction of a new timetable.

Speaking about the announcement, Steve Rotheram said:- "The recent disruption on our rail system has affected a huge number of individuals across our City Region and I am continuing to lobby for them to be properly compensated. The same disruption has had a serious impact on businesses across the North West. That is why I have repeatedly made the argument to Transport for the North that Southport must be included in any compensation package. I am very pleased that, as a result of that lobbying, Southport will now receive ₤50,000. We will pass that compensation on to Sefton Council, so that Marketing Southport can use the money as they see fit to attract visitors to the resort."

Since the new timetable was introduced in May 2018, the Manchester to Southport line has been 1 of most seriously affected services in the North, with significant numbers of services cancelled or delayed. 

This follows on from the RAIL UNION RMT announcement confirming further strike action on Northern Rail in fight over guards and rail safety. These strikes will take place on Arriva Rail North services, over what the RMT say are:- "attacks on the role of the safety critical guard and the extension of Driver Only Operation, in the name of increased profits."

All Arriva Rail North Conductor, Conductor Instructor and Train Driver members are instructed to take action as follows:- "Not to book on for any shifts between 0001 hours and 2359 hours, on Saturday, 21 July 2018."

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:- "It is a tribute to the determination and professionalism of RMT members on Arriva Rail North that they have remained rock solid for over a year now in what is a battle to put public safety before private profit. The next phase of action will take place 2 weeks on Saturday as the company refuse point blank to engage in talks. RMT is angry and frustrated that while we are making some progress in discussions in similar safety disputes‎ Arriva Rail North refuse point blank to engage with the union in any meaningful fashion. That is a disgrace and speaks volumes about the attitude of this company. German owned Northern Rail want to run nearly half a million trains a year without a safety critical guard on board in a move that would wreck both safety and access ‎to services and they should listen to their front line staff and pull back from that plan immediately. We have seen repeatedly in recent weeks that Arriva are not capable of running a railway and have chosen to declare war on passengers and staff alike in the drive for increased profits while safety, access and reliability are left to rot. RMT has agreed arrangements in Wales and Scotland that enshrine the guard guarantee. If it's good enough for Wales and Scotland to have safe rail services it should be good enough for the rest of Britain. We thank the public for their support and understanding throughout this dispute over rail safety and access and the union remains ready for talks."

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