AS a cold snap hits the country Southend Council is working to ensure its cold weather related deaths don’t soar like two years ago.

Winter 2008/2009 saw the borough record the highest number of cold related deaths in the East of England at 129.

Last winter it fell to 95, more in line with similar size towns around the UK.

However, the council is determined to reduce this further and is working with the health trust NHS South East Essex, the Southend Older People’s Assembly and Help the Aged to promote the practical and financial help it can offer elderly and vulnerable people most at risk.

Anna Waite, councillor for social care, health and housing, said: “We want to promote all the facilities the council can offer to reduce deaths in the borough due to cold.

“Even one death due to the cold is one too many among the vulnerable and elderly in the borough so the council can be called if they need help.”

She is busy working with council officers to set up the council as a first port of call for the elderly and vulnerable suffering from the cold and unsure where to turn to.

Callers will be given advice and information on the Private Sector Renewal Grant, means tested funding towards improvements to the home, and other grants are available through the Warm and Healthy Homes Partnership and the Warm Front Grant scheme for help toward heating costs.

Council staff will also point people to the Energy Saving Trust which can help reduce heating bills and even the Landlord Accreditation Scheme which can be used to check the heating in a property.

Dot Golding, 82, who lives with her husband Alf, 92, in Prittlewell, said the winter is a worrying time for them as heating costs rise as the temperatures drop so they welcomed the extra help.

She said: “I think what the council is doing is a very good idea for people of our age group and of course vulnerable people as well.

“Knowing this, the phone helpline is the first thing we would use if we had a problem but we’re still used to sorting things out for ourselves.”

People can contact the council on 01702 215000.