poverty in wokingham borough

Tackling poverty in Wokingham Borough

The causes and effects of low income are wide ranging and damage standards of living and accessibility to health and wellbeing – in particular mental health and social inclusion.  

Poverty level trends are driven by changes in the employment rate, earnings, benefits and other income such as pensions, and housing costs. Although these factors cannot always be influenced locally, and they might be restricted by central government policy, local council knowledge of its residents is crucial knowing where best to target support. 

Depending on what definition of poverty is used – whether based on before or after housing costs are taken into account – the Wokingham Borough has consistently been one of the least deprived unitary authority areas in England (ranking least deprived in 2019 Indices of Multiple Deprivation). But people and families on low incomes do exist in the borough so the council has a number of measures in place to ensure the borough’s opportunities can be accessed by everyone.   

“Regardless of whatever statutory benchmark used to analyse poverty levels across the borough, Wokingham is one of the lowest in the country. But that doesn’t mean we’re complacent. It is certainly not okay,” said John Halsall, leader of the council.

“Even if one person or one child does not have fair and equal opportunity in our borough, that is one too many. We already have a wide net of support for low income families and are introducing even more. We’ll be discussing our approach to our Anti-Poverty Strategy, which will encompass all of these, at a forthcoming Executive meeting.”

In response to the pandemic, Wokingham Borough Council and its partner organisations have implemented a number of interventions including: 

  • Flexible repayment plans for Council Tax and distributing the Council Tax Hardship Fund
  • Financial support to eligible providers within the voluntary and community sector through the service sustainability fund
  • £20m in Business Support grants and £20m of other reliefs  
  • Extending funding to ‘One front door’ via Citizens Advice Wokingham giving struggling residents a single point for help and advice on unemployment debt, statutory sick pay/ benefits, mental health and wellbeing, and prescription collections or shopping service if they’re self-isolating
  • Supporting residents via the community engagement team including referrals to other local organisations that focus on hardship
  • Support for council tenants via the tenancy sustainment team 
  • Supporting rough sleepers into accommodation through the ‘All In’ policy

The effects of the pandemic on the borough are a moving target, and as such the council and its partners must develop responses to tackle them. New measures include the following:

  • Eco-Flex and Green Home Grants schemes to alleviate fuel poverty
  • Temporary accommodation for rough sleepers to March 2021
  • A private rented sector access fund
  • A rough sleeper programme including homes designed with wraparound support to help them
  • Enhanced mental health support
  • Influence economic recovery via economic renewal recovery and a business task force
  • Actions through the Berkshire Recovery Group Hardship workstream
  • A full time debt management worker

“Wokingham Borough is one of the best places to live and work in the UK,” said John Halsall, “and as such what poverty we do have, it has no place in the borough. We are unswerving in our mission to fight and work with our partners to drive up the living standards and drive out poverty for all our residents.”

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Wokingham Borough Council to review single occupancy Council Tax reduction

This November will see Wokingham Borough Council launch a review of the single person’s council tax discount to ensure those receiving the discount remain entitled to claim. 

Currently received by over 18,000 people in the borough, the discount sees those living alone receive a 25% reduction on their council tax bill to reflect the reduced draw they have on local services compared to larger households.  

“Over the past year there have been lots of changes to local households as well as increasing pressure on budgets. As such we felt it was time to review the single persons discount and make sure our records are up-to-date.” Said Cllr John Kaiser, executive member for finance and housing “Council tax income is critical to fund essential services which benefit all our residents so it’s important we make sure households contribute their fair share.” 

Over the coming months the council will be working with Northgate Public Services to carry out residency checks on households that currently receive the discount. These will establish if they are still entitled to receive it or if further investigation is required. 

A previous single person discount review identified a number of households incorrectly applying for reductions allowing over £450,000 in additional council tax to be collected each year. 

Cllr Kaiser continued: “The majority of those claiming the single persons discount remain entitled to it and will be completely unaffected by this review. However there are a small minority of cases where personal circumstances have changed, such as where a lodger or a partner have moved in, and the household may not realise they can no longer claim. 

“We also believe that there are residents living alone, whether from a recent change or longer term, who may not be aware of the discount and that they could be receiving several hundred pounds off their bill each year. Whilst these individuals won’t be identified through the review, as it only looks at those already claiming, we are keen to see them apply. 

“I’d urge any council tax payer who know their circumstances have changed, or who are unsure if they may be eligible, to get in contact with the council to discuss. If their concern is a financial one our team are team are always happy to discuss options and there may be other discounts that the household qualifies for instead.” 

Changes to circumstances that impact on a households eligibility for a single person discount (or any other council tax discount) need to be notified to the council within 21 days. 

Any resident who thinks they may no longer be entitled to a council tax discount should contact: Wokingham Borough Council on 0118 974 6000 or email

For those residents who would like more information on the various discounts or benefits that they may be entitled to claim can visit: and (for benefits).

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