More than £50m has been made available by Swindon Borough Council in the last financial year to help those struggling with the cost of living.

And by far the largest amount was in housing benefit and council tax support, reducing the rent of tenants and council tax bills of householders throughout the borough.

A report to the Labour cabinet by the member for communities and joint working Councillor Jim Grant outlined what the council has been doing to help with the cost of living, and its next steps.

The report told councillors that “approximately £50m of assistance with housing benefit and council tax support was made in 2023/24

“Discretionary Housing payments which help residents pay their rent and maintains tenancies were made to 708 households and £533,000 was awarded.

“Local welfare and the Swindon emergency assistance fund helps those in crisis with food, energy and essential furniture and kitchen appliances. During 2023, 566 awards were made with a value of £32,678. Between January and March 2024, 173 awards with a value of £18,394 have been made”

The total is just under £50.6m.

Cllr Grant said: “People are still struggling and it should be noted we made more in assistance payments in 2023/24 than the previous year.”

Other initiatives were designating spaces such as libraries and community centres warm and welcome spaces – where people could go to both keep warm while saving on their own heating bill, and meet others for friendly interaction; and funding to Kennet Furniture Refurbz who provide refurbished furniture and white goods to those in need.

But now, Cllr Grant said, the plan is to disband the special ‘cost of living group’ and embed support in the normal functions of the council.

He report said the council will: “Move from crisis support to a more robust preventative approach.

“It will create a Financial Wellbeing Partnership, co-created and chaired by Swindon Borough Council and Citizens Advice Swindon.

“The partnership will be made up of internal and external colleagues; all with a shared responsibility to improve the lives and financial wellbeing of Swindon residents.

The council will also “develop a Financial Wellbeing Strategy and associated action plan; working with key partners to build on the existing offer and shaping a Swindon where everyone has the chance to a financially secure life.”

Leader of the council Councillor Jim Robbins said he was pleased that when asked by Sir Keir Starmer to create a cost of living plan as the party took over at Euclid Street, he found that officers were already on top of such work.

The plan was approved unanimously.