Yorkshire council could set up 'heat banks' where people can stay warm in winter

A leading councillor angry at soaring BP profits says that the city is working to set up ‘warm banks’ to help people this winter as the cost of living crisis bites.

Coun Mazher Iqbal is on a Sheffield City Council cost of living crisis taskforce looking at ways to help people cope with soaring bills and prices.

Warm banks are one idea – opening up heated community buildings so people can come in during the day, rather than have to heat their own homes.

Coun Iqbal said: “I was commenting when Centrica announced record profits last week that nobody is coming out and saying, ‘this is what we are going to do for our customers’, especially the ones that are facing difficulty.”

Sheffield City Council is considering opening 'heat banks' for people to stay warm in the winter

He pointed to predictions that the cap on energy bills could now rise to £3,850 this October, saying “something has to be done”.

“The Government is doing a U-turn and nowhere are the political parties asking for a levy on firms. These profits are not for 12 months – these are profits made in three months – they say they’re world record profits.

“We know that we have so many vulnerable people in our city. That’s why we’ve set up this cost of living group, led by council leader Coun Terry Fox.”

Coun Iqbal said it’s a big worry that food banks are already struggling as fewer people can afford to donate to them – now warm banks are on the way.

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He said: “Martin Lewis was saying we need to start planning for the autumn. He suggested warm banks, using community buildings and even businesses.”

Coun Iqbal said the council has already been surveying its community buildings and it’s clear many will have to be insulated to become warm banks.

He said: “We’re looking at how do we support warm banks across the city? It’s a conversation that only started yesterday. We on the Labour group, before we went into the committee system, agreed £3.5 million to spend on local community and council-owned buildings.

“We were looking at how do we meet our ambition of net zero (on climate change)? We are hearing that so many people are not going to be able to keep themselves warm because of these frightening costs. We’re going to be speaking to community groups.”

He admitted: “£3.5 million doesn’t go far enough. It costs about £250,000 to put a heat pump in.”

He reckons they could insulate about 13 buildings with the money and says some older buildings wouldn’t be able structurally to have solar panels fitted.

“It’s a drop in the ocean compared to the billions in profits. The Government now needs to step up and put a further levy on these firms.”

He said rising prices had led workers to take strike action and has met members of the CWU communication workers’ union who are taking action at BT.

He said: “The two Tory leadership candidates are falling over themselves to make tax cuts. They should also be speaking to these firms.”