By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
Councils across Nottinghamshire are researching plans to establish ‘warm rooms’ for local people who can’t afford heating this winter.
The idea could see community spaces – also known as ‘warm banks’ – popping up across the county, for locals struggling to pay their gas and electricity bills.
In Bristol, councillors have already confirmed they will open ‘warm places’ this October, where people can also access food, education and financial advice.
Now a number of local authorities in Nottinghamshire including Mansfield District Council are looking at the idea of dedicated ‘warm rooms’ over winter.
Councillor Marion Bradshaw (Lab) Portfolio Holder for Safer Communities, Housing and Wellbeing at Mansfield, said: “Having a dedicated ‘Warm Rooms’ scheme over the winter months is something currently being discussed with our partners and community organisations.”
She added that the authority also operates its own fuel bank scheme for people on gas or electricity meters in danger of being disconnected from energy suppliers.
Newark and Sherwood District Council has set up a working group to “explore what is needed to support residents, tenants and businesses through the cost of living challenges”.
And Bassetlaw District Council says it is “in discussions with our partners in the public, health and voluntary sectors, actively looking at a range of options that could support vulnerable residents”.
Rushcliffe Borough Council says it will work with and support partners as necessary should organisations create ‘warm banks’ in the borough.
Meanwhile, Derek Higton, Service Director at Nottinghamshire County Council, said phase three of its Household Support Fund will start from September 30 to provide food and fuel support for residents.
He added: “We will also be supporting residents through the Nottingham Energy Partnership by offering advice on practical home energy improvements, targeted training, comprehensive energy advice and referral for boiler installation, home insulation and adaptations to people over 60 and families with young children.”
But the deputy director at Radford Food Bank in Nottingham criticised the idea of warm rooms as “archaic”.
Shoana Qureshi-Khan said many local people are worried about having the money to cook basic foods like pasts and rice due to soaring energy bills.
But she believes warm rooms would be “dehumanising”.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, she said: “The warm banks idea is better than nothing – but are we really at that stage?
“It is ludicrous. We are the fifth richest economy in the world and food banks are normal now. It is really poor.
“Our service users are finding it difficult to cook foods now. People are picking up food parcels but they can’t cook things like pasta and rice.
“Then winter will be upon us and they won’t be able to keep warm.
“It will be a hideous winter for them. Where is the dignity and humanity in having warm spaces for people to gather? It’s appalling.
“The responsibility should be on gas and electric providers and the Government. Local authorities also need to be more creative with their ideas.
“There should be caps on electricity for people on low incomes. Otherwise, the big companies will continue to get rich.”