Lewisham families' plea for gas to be switched off so they can't turn on heating

Cllr Amanda De Ryk, Lewisham Council cabinet member for finance and strategy
Cllr Amanda De Ryk, Lewisham Council cabinet member for finance and strategy

Families struggling to pay household bills are pleading with council workers to switch off their gas so they’re not tempted to turn the heating on.

The soaring cost of living is pushing Lewisham residents to seek out desperate measures to save money, Cllr Amanda De Ryk warned.

De Ryk, Labour cabinet member for finance and strategy, said more than 61,000 people across the South London borough were finding it difficult to cover their bills.

Food bank use and homelessness in Lewisham was already increasing, she added.

Speaking at a council meeting on September 28, Cllr De Ryk said: “Recent survey data shows that there are more than 61,000 Lewisham families struggling to pay their bills.

"Food bank referrals are on the rise, homelessness is increasing and we’ve got tenants who are asking to have their gas disconnected so they aren’t tempted to put their heating on.

“This is what a cost of living crisis looks like on the ground, not round the table at No 10.

"The council is working urgently to respond to the crisis even though there is no extra money coming to Lewisham from central government.

"But as with the pandemic we know we can’t do it alone.”

Cllr De Ryk said councillors had begun meeting with local charities to organise measures to help support people through the coming winter.

She revealed the council was in the process of setting up a number of warm places for residents to take refuge in during cold spells.

She added: “We need to harness the strength of Lewisham’s brilliant charities, advisory specialists and other third sector partners.

"Officers, the Mayor and myself are meeting regularly with them to co-ordinate and target our response.

“Work has already begun to set up a network of places where residents can get a warm welcome when it’s cold this winter.

"We’ve launched a food justice programme and are getting ready to deliver food parcels.

"And we have a new dedicated web page on our website which targets people towards further support.”

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