Councilors reject proposals for ‘hot rooms’ in Nottinghamshire public buildings and libraries

Councilors rejected a motion calling for the idea of ​​’hot rooms’ to be investigated in public buildings in Nottinghamshire.

The program has been set up by several other councils across the country to help people who are struggling to heat their homes amid rising energy costs.

Under proposals put forward by Nottinghamshire County Council’s Labor group, public buildings like libraries would be open longer during the winter months to provide struggling residents with warm places to go.

But the ruling Conservative group rejected the proposals at the full council meeting on Thursday (September 22).

Councilor Ben Bradley MP (Con), the leader of the council, said the policy “would not be the best use of limited funds”, and said different forms of support would be provided instead.

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However, Labor and Independent Alliance councilors voted in favor of the proposal and spoke of the hardships some Nottinghamshire residents are experiencing.

Cllr Paul Henshaw (Lab), who represents Mansfield West and who moved the motion, said: ‘When we look at the number of people who are going to be affected by fuel poverty and the cost of living emergency, the numbers are striking and frightening. .

“Why haven’t we, at least, asked the officers of the council to look into this and report back on whether a similar proposal might work here?”

“That’s all we’re asking, let’s look into it and see if we can do anything.

“It is an effective action to support people. We have to accept that there is a cost-of-living emergency and that we have – and I don’t use that word lightly – a moral responsibility to act.

Cllr Jason Zadrozny (Ash Ind), Group Leader of the Independent Alliance, added: “Members of the public are scared enough and I’m talking to people who work and are scared of the bills they have to pay.

“They are completely in the dark about what could come to help them. They want to know, literally, what they can do to pay their bills.

“This motion comes from a good place, where people want to show that government at all levels is on their side.”

However, the Conservatives did not support the idea of ​​“hot rooms” and believed that the funding would be better spent helping people through “direct action”.

They pointed to the Household Support Fund – a funding pot specifically for those who are struggling the most with their bills – which will come forward for its third round of funding next month.

As part of this, the authority expects £5.6million which it can use to provide vouchers and support to families – including low-income households and those with children receiving free school meals .

And Cllr John Cottee (Con), portfolio holder for communities, also felt the ‘hot rooms’ scheme was unnecessary as it is ‘already provided’ by the county’s network of 60 libraries.

He said: “We already have some, but we don’t call them ‘hot coins’ because that would imply that’s their only purpose.

“Instead we have open and free public buildings such as our libraries and we still have 60 libraries located in communities across Nottinghamshire.

“We realized many years ago that the future of our libraries was much more than just lending books.

“[They are] spaces where people can read, meet and socialize, and enjoy a wide range of activities in a warm, well-lit and comfortable environment.

“We don’t need to rebrand the facilities as ‘hot rooms’ for a few months, but if people want to use them as hot rooms, that’s what they can be.”

Councilors rejected the motion by 32 votes to 23.

Cllr Bradley added: “I have enormous sympathy for the premise of the motion. Of course, we are very concerned about the impact of rising prices, but we have done everything in our power to support these residents.

“It’s just like we did with Covid, during the recovery period and now with the cost of living.

“We are doing everything we can to try to support local people. Over the past few years, £20million has been shared from here to fund residents, community groups and charities in direct support of those most vulnerable.

“That is continuing this winter, and just this week we have finalized the next phase of the Household Support Fund.”