‘Warm banks’ in Birmingham to try to save people abandoned by government

Come to my ward in east Birmingham and you’ll find no shortage of pride or ambition. Our city has one of the youngest populations in Europe. It’s powered by huge creative talent and home to vibrant, diverse communities. But, as I spent a sunny Saturday morning holding my regular councillor’s surgery at Glebe Farm library, my constituents told me troubling stories. They spoke of rocketing food prices and rising household bills; of overstretched family budgets that won’t keep pace with the cost of living. They feared the coming colder days. “We just don’t have that kind of money,” a pensioner couple said of impending rises in their energy bill. One young family told me they worried about having to choose between eating or heating this winter.

Birmingham is now taking the extraordinary step of mapping out places in our city where people can keep warm and safe this winter, because they can’t afford to switch on the heating at home. We’re looking at whether we can open up council buildings, and working with community, voluntary and faith groups to find places where people can be welcomed, find warmth and access help and support. These “warm banks” would be unprecedented.

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