THE number of so-called ‘warm banks’ in Barnsley has increased by almost 50 per cent in the last two weeks - prompting a local MP to slam the government for its handling of the cost-of-living crisis.

On December 8, there were 23 in place across the borough - but there are currently more than 30 for residents.

The soaring cost of fuel and basic essentials has led to the rise of so-called ‘warm banks’ - locations such as churches and libraries which people can visit if they are struggling to afford heating.

John Healey, Labour MP for Wentworth and Dearne, said he welcomes the community help - but added that they ‘shouldn’t be needed in 2022’.

He said: “I’d like to thank all of those organisations, charities and venues that have come forward to offer their support for people across the borough this winter.

“With food prices and rents increasing, heating bills going up and taxes rising, I know this is a very difficult time for many.

“But warm banks shouldn’t be needed in 2022.

“This is the first time in my 25 years as an MP that this has happened, and it clearly shows how this Conservative government has failed people over the past 12 years.

“We’ve had people contact my office saying they need somewhere to go as they simply can’t afford to have the heating on and heat their homes.

“People shouldn’t be in that position in the 21st century.

“Labour’s Warm Homes Plan would insulate up to two million homes a year, saving pensioners and families up to £1,000 off their energy bills.”

Earlier this year in a full council meeting, Lib Dem Couns Richard Denton and Chris Wray put forward the Community Warm Spaces project, which would have seen residents have a place to go which would provide free heating to reduce energy bills.

However, an amendment suggested by the leader of Barnsley Council, Sir Steve Houghton, and Coun James Higginbottom was instead passed through the meeting.

The council will utilise the £2.3m from its Household Support Grant to prioritise the most vulnerable in the borough over the winter period.

Coun Wray, who was influential in helping set up a warm bank in his Dodworth ward, said it is a ‘sad fact’ that these spaces are needed - but praised the community spirit.

“I’m thrilled to see the number of places that have been opened in Barnsley, helping to keep people warm,” he told the Chronicle.

“It’s no secret how strongly I feel about these - and how strongly I feel about the sad fact we need them - but it’s a great sign of the community coming together.

“More than just warm banks, these can allow the community to come together, talk, and grow.

“This is what I wanted when we in Dodworth looked at them months ago, and it’s something I hope they can bring now.

“Everybody, from the Methodist church, to individual clubs, should be proud of the community spirit they’re showing.”