Uttlesford, which is often perceived as 'wealthy' is hiding 'significant pockets of deprivation', a councillor has claimed.

The district council has promised to re-prioritise its budget in order to offer extra support for its residents worst affected by the cost-of-living crisis.

The council has passed a motion resolving to call upon central government and its local MPs to help the most vulnerable households and individuals across the UK and in its constituencies.

At a meeting on October 10, Councillor Chloe Fiddy (Residents for Uttlesford, Saffron Walden Shire) presented a motion to attendees seeking to guarantee additional financial assistance on a number of specific fronts.

Having collected data from a number of sources including the House of Commons library, Cllr Fiddy told those present that rising inflation and interest rates have slashed households’ real disposable incomes, and soaring food and energy bills have been key drivers in prompting those struggling to turn to charities for help.

Participating as a public speaker at the start of the meeting, Desiree Ashton, advocacy and campaigns officer for the Trussell Trust-managed Uttlesford Food Bank, told councillors that over the last three years food parcels given to those in need across the district increased from around 600 per year to more than 1,700.

Demand for the food bank’s services saw a 48 per cent increase during the financial year of 2022-2023, which was 11 per cent higher than the average increase on a national level.

She said: “The leafy lanes and chocolate box nature of Uttlesford have been masking a growing need across our district.”

Reflecting on this, Councillor Ray Gooding (Con., Stansted South and Birchanger) said: "Whilst we appear to be a relatively wealthy district, there are significant pockets of deprivation."


However, despite praising the efforts of Uttlesford Food Bank and similar organisations, Cllr Fiddy said: "Charitable support is a sticking plaster, not a permanent long-term strategy for solving problems."

She said that in terms of energy discrepancies, nearly 17,300 homes in the district – more than half the total number – hold energy performance certificates (EPCs) with ratings of D,E,F or G. These are the least efficient ratings, and lead to far higher average energy bills.

"People are eroding their savings and getting into debt just to make ends meet," she said.

"Often they will do this before approaching charities for support."

In her motion, Cllr Fiddy proposed adopting a stance similar to the Trussell Trust’s campaign for the government to introduce an 'essentials guarantee', meaning that benefits should cover essential household bills and food requirements and prevent people resorting to debt or emergency charitable help in order to meet their basic needs.

It was also suggested that the government un-freezing Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and ensuring housing benefit covers at least the cheapest 30 per cent of private rents across the country would offer greater security to those renting privately as opposed to owning a mortgage or living in social housing.

However, Councillor Christian Criscione (Con., Flitch Green and Little Dunmow) said the onus was on UDC, rather than central government, to take action.

He said: "I don’t think there’s a single person in this room who can say UDC is doing as much as it could be.

"We could always be doing more."