The Mayor of Newham has called for more government support to help people in the borough through the cost of living crisis.

Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz wrote to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on the day of the government’s autumn fiscal statement (November 17) with proposals that she said would help local people make ends meet.

She proposed freezing private sector rents and funding free school meals across the borough as a means of helping people with the cost of living, as well as asking how support with gas and electricity bills could be continued.

In the letter, Ms Fiaz said: “The cost of living emergency is most extremely felt in my borough where thousands of residents face catastrophic financial instability due to inflation, soaring energy bills and high housing costs that follows more than 12 years of austerity.

“At this time, we need leadership that meets the scale of crisis we face and urgent action.”

Newham Recorder: Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz (Image: Newham Council)

One of the measures the letter suggested was the freezing of private sector rents for two years.

Mayor Fiaz explained: “Recent census findings show that over a third of our residents are living in poverty; and when housing costs are included, this rises to almost half of all households.

“In Newham, 54 per cent of all households and 59 per cent of children under the age of nine live in the private rented sector.

“The current shortage of supply and lack of rent controls in this sector allows landlords to impose unlimited rent hikes and means that a majority of children in the borough are at an increased risk of homelessness as a result.” 

She then urged the government to fund universal free school meals across England for all primary aged pupils, matching Newham’s own commitment.

Mayor Fiaz said: “We are responding to the emergency facing our people with…our £6 million universal Eat for Free programme that provides a nutritious meal to every single primary school pupil. It saves parents and carers £500 per child per year.”

She also asked for clarity as to what targeted support would be available from April 2023 to replace the Energy Price Guarantee.

The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, confirmed during his autumn statement that the Energy Price Guarantee will be extended next year.

He said: “From April, we will continue the Energy Price Guarantee for a further 12 months at a higher level of £3,000 per year for the average household. With prices forecast to remain elevated through next year, this will still mean an average of £500 support for every household."

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities did not respond to a request for comment.