Cost of living in Norfolk - what help has been announced?

Hands holding british pound coin and small money pouch

The government has announced measures aimed at taking pressure off families as the cost of essential bills continues to increase. - Credit: Getty Images

Energy bills have gone through the roof on April 1, while the cost of food continues to climb, council tax has increased and fuel is at record prices.

A rise in National Insurance has hit working people's pay packets this week.

Local support and advice organisations including Community Action Norfolk and the Norfolk Community Foundation estimate that thousands will be unable to afford the April energy price rise. 

Even before the latest increases, charity Norfolk Citizens Advice people seeking help over energy bill worries was up by 262pc as were those requesting food bank vouchers or support from other charities. 

The government has said it is taking "decisive action" in helping people with their bills with funding schemes aimed at taking pressure off families facing the cost of living crisis.

Low income households

The Office for National Statistics said that low earners, renters, parents, people with disabilities, unemployed people and divorcees were least able to afford a bill shock.

Norfolk County Council said it has used government money to fund various packages of support including in the last six months £1.2m to increase capacity within the Norfolk Assistance Scheme (NAS), which provides emergency funding to help with living costs, and £1.4m to district councils for community support.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Council leader Andrew Proctor said it “fully understands how the increased cost of living is hitting many people hard now”.

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“Following the chancellor’s recent announcement of the further funding, we are developing a new scheme with the £6.7m we have been allocated that will have the depth and flexibility to reach a much broader range of people facing hardship,” he added.

Fuel and food costs

Drivers were hit by the largest monthly spike in pump prices on record in March while the cost of groceries is now 5.2pc higher than it was a year ago.

The government said its 12-month cut in the fuel duty on petrol and diesel of 5p per litre represents savings for consumers worth almost £2.4 billion over the next year.

The government said it had also doubled the Household Support Fund by providing an extra £500 million from April 2022, on top of the £500 million already provided since October 2021. 

woman shopping

The cost of groceries is now 5.2pc higher than it was a year ago. - Credit: PA

The fund will help households with the cost of essentials such as food, clothing and utilities and will continue to be distributed to councils, who are “best placed to direct help to those who need it most”.

Norfolk Community Foundation said it was expanding its network of community shops to 15 across the county.

Council tax

Council tax bills are going up across Norfolk. Norfolk County Council has raised bills by £44 a year for a Band D property and £30 for those in Band A, with other city, district and town councils, as well as the police, also increasing their share of bills.

Norfolk County Council tax bill. Picture: Denise Bradley

Norfolk County Council tax bills have risen. - Credit: Archant

Under government help those living in households under bands A to D will be given £150 to help with the cost of living, with those eligible for council tax reductions living in all other bands, also due to get the payment.

Local authorities are also receiving extra discretionary funding to help those who are in need but not eligible.

Household energy costs

The average energy bill rise of £693 a year has kicked in this month, and is equivalent to about 12pc of the poorest households' disposable income.

The government said its £9.1 billion energy bill rebate package would be worth up to £350 each for around 28 million households

It includes a £200 discount on electricity bills in the autumn, which will be repaid by customers in instalments over five years.

Woman in front of fire

More lower income households and elderly people are at risk of fuel poverty. - Credit: PA

Steve Nunn, of Community Action Norfolk, said: “Many people have been having to make the ‘heat or eat’ choice.

“The £200 rebate to householders will help a little – but it’s important to understand that it will need to be paid back, in segments of £40 at a time, from 2023. 

"At least the £150 council tax rebate for those living in council tax bands a to D will not need to be repaid.

National Insurance

The National Insurance tax rise came into force this week however, while some will pay more, others will pay less.

Payments will only be collected on wages above £9,880, although this rises to £12,570 in July - a threshold rise announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak at the recent Spring statement.

It means anyone earning less than about £34,000 will pay less NI than they did last year, while anybody earning more than that will pay more.

Other entitlements

Mark Hitchcock, chief executive of Norfolk Citizens Advice, said many households were unaware they were entitled to government help. 

Norfolk Citizens Advice chief executive Mark Hitchcock.

Norfolk Citizens Advice chief executive Mark Hitchcock. - Credit: Simon Parkin

“One of the most regular things we do is to get people to understand whether they are due a benefit which they didn’t know about,” he said. "Our advisors can help them do that. We have money specialists that can also help some of the more severe cases."

Money Saving Expert has a 10-minute benefits check allowing people to see what they are entitled to.

Where to get help

Norfolk Citizens Advice
Offers free, confidential and impartial advice on debt, benefits and money issues.
0800 1448 848
ncab.org.uk

Money Support Service
Norfolk County Council service for those needing help with budgeting.
01603 223392 (option 4)
norfolk.gov.uk

Community Action Norfolk
Charity offering help including warm homes and collective oil buying scheme.
01362 698216
communityactionnorfolk.org.uk

Norfolk Community Foundation
Charity that runs schemes including nourishing Norfolk and community shops.
01603 623958
norfolkfoundation.com

Billie Lawler, The Burrell shop manager, with Nik Chapman, CEO of the Charles Burrell Centre.

The Burrell Shop in Thetford, one of a growing network of low cost community shops run by Norfolk Community Foundation. - Credit: Sarah Hussain

Norfolk Assistance Scheme (NAS)
Helps people who are in financial hardship and cannot pay their living costs.
0344 8008020
norfolk.gov.uk

Turn2Us
A national charity providing practical help to people who are struggling financially.
turn2us.org.uk

The Trussell Trust
Free 'Help through Hardship' helpline and food bank search tool.
0808 208 2138
trusselltrust.org/get-help/find-a-foodbank/

Money Saving Expert
Martin Lewis needs no introduction but the website offers specialised advice for people on low incomes.
moneysavingexpert.com/family/grants-low-income/