Cost of living: What is a warm bank and which cities are they opening in?

As the cost of living continues to bite, councils are looking into ways they can help residents with rising energy bills.

Some are planning to open public spaces, such as libraries, so people who can't afford to heat their homes can use them as 'warm banks'.

Here we look at what cities are looking into the initiative.

What is a 'warm bank'?

Public spaces such as community centres, churches, art galleries and libraries could be used as 'warm banks', so people who struggle to heat their homes this winter will be able to gather inside the public buildings.

The idea is being mooted by councils across the UK as the cost of living crisis intensifies, with the energy price cap rising to £3,549 from October 1 - an increase of more than 80%.

The average yearly bill for households on a default tariff will rise by £1,578, and the energy cap is expected to rise again from January.

So councils are looking at ways they can support residents by providing warm spaces for free.

Which cities will they be in?

Bristol, Birmingham, London, Gateshead, Dundee, Aberdeen and Glasgow are the cities considering introducing 'warm banks'.

Other councils including Southend, in Essex, Sheffield, in Yorkshire, and several in Nottinghamshire have already started mulling similar plans for either setting up, supporting or highlighting the locations of ‘warm banks’.


A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said the city is on course to begin opening 'warm banks' in October.

“We are working with community organisations across the city to open a network of welcoming spaces for residents to access warmth, social interaction and advice over the autumn and winter," the spokesperson said.

"Services, which will vary at each welcoming space, could include access to recharging electronic devices, use of Wi-Fi or computers and food provision."


Birmingham City Council said it is mapping 'warm banks' across the city, identifying spaces where people can go to keep warm, access services, and spend time with other people.

Councillor John Cotton, Cabinet Member for Social Justice, Community Safety and Equalities, said: “We are going to work with partners to map out spaces across the city where people can go to keep warm.

“Whether that’s local community centres, places of worship or libraries, we want to help people to find places where they will be welcomed, free of charge.

He added: “It should not be the case that people cannot afford to keep their homes warm, but that is the reality that we are facing here in Birmingham.”


The Oasis Centre in Southwark is opening a scheme called “living rooms”, which will be heated spaces that also offer other services.

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More than 50 voluntary and community venues have signed up as 'Warm Spaces', in Gateshead and the council is building an online directory and will be publishing this soon.

A spokesperson for Gateshead Council said: “We’re working with our voluntary and community sector partners to establish a network of Warm Spaces across Gateshead.

"Many of these places will offer activities, refreshments and opportunities to socialise, but people who are simply looking for somewhere to stay warm are welcome too.

"Everyone will be treated equally, with dignity and respect, and it doesn’t matter why you need a Warm Space. Whatever your reason for coming, you won’t be judged.”


Glasgow is mapping the services and facilities available in the city and working to identify accessible buildings which can provide additional warm places this winter.

“These will be buildings which are well known to communities. It’s important, though, that this is also about providing a space where people can come and socialise and be offered access to financial inclusion support and social activities," councillor Ruairi Kelly, Convener for Neighbourhood Services and Assets at Glasgow City Council, said.

She added warm banks will be publicised and open by early October through to March, but more places may become available throughout the winter months.


An Aberdeen City Council spokesperson said: “We have a wide network of libraries and community spaces that we will be promoting as the winter months come in.

"These spaces will give people the opportunity to stay warm where required, but also to meet others and participate in community activities.”

What has the government said?

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England, said while local authorities were doing “all they can”, ‘warm banks’ were “not alternatives” to providing householders with “adequate resources” to make heating their homes affordable.

Cllr Andrew Western, chair of the LGA’s resources board, said: “The mainstream welfare system should ensure people have sufficient means to meet true living costs and councils and local partners need adequate resources to provide targeted and effective crisis support alongside services which increase opportunity and lift people out of poverty for good.”

Asked about plans for so-called ‘warm banks’ in libraries, community centres and art galleries, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) minister Matt Warman said: “Those are initiatives put forward by local councils that are for them.

“What the government has to do and has done up to this point and will continue to do in the future is make sure that people have got the resources to heat their own homes.

“Those initiatives that are put forward, I think, will be welcome to some people. Of course they will be.

“But what the government is doing and will continue to do is focusing on giving people the resources they need in their own homes, rather than having to leave them.”