A senior Bank of England executive was given a picture of what life is like on the frontline for charities and voluntary groups in the cost of living crisis when he met representatives of Wiltshire groups.

Fergal Shortall, the Bank of England’s director of monetary analysis, heard about the poverty faced by people across the county when he met 12 charities at a community forum facilitated by Wiltshire Community Foundation.

The Bank of England has run more than 40 community forums all over the UK since 2017 to talk to lesser heard groups, understand how the economy is working for communities and to help it formulate policy. It does this by partnering with organisations such as Wiltshire Community Foundation that are deeply rooted in the communities they serve.

The forum, hosted by furniture recycling charity KFR at its base on the Hopton Industrial Estate in Devizes, gave Bank of England representatives the chance to question charities about the challenges they and the people they help are facing.

Among the charities who attended were Wiltshire Citizens Advice, Rise:61, which runs youth groups and a community garden in Bemerton Heath, The Pantry Partnership, which works with volunteers to collect surplus food from businesses and distributes it to community organisations across Salisbury area and Age UK Wiltshire.

The Bank of England executive heard that the rise in demand because of the cost of living crisis has come at the same time as charities and voluntary groups are seeing their own costs rise.

Robin Imeson, Chief Executive of Rise:61 said he raised the issue of poorer people being left behind by a cashless society and of charities having difficulties with banks. “It feels like many mainstream banks just don't want charity accounts at the moment and they make it really difficult even to just change simple things like named persons on the mandate.

“I felt like the Bank of England didn't really know about that and he was quite interested and said the they would speak to the Financial Conduct Authority about it.”

He said he found the meeting very worthwhile and agreed it was important for the Bank of England to talk to the voluntary sector.

“I think if government structures want to look after the poorest and most vulnerable in society, then if they're not hearing from those people, through the people who work with them, then there's going to be a mismatch in what they're doing and how effective it is," he said.

KFR manager Dan Thompson gave Mr Shortall a tour of the charity’s warehouse and explained how it collects unwanted furniture and white goods from across the county, refurbishes it and then sells it at low prices to families on low incomes and, in some cases, distributes it free to people in crisis.

He said it is important for representatives from the Bank of England to get out and listen to what is happening in communities affected by the economy. “They don't necessarily see what it's like on the ground every day,” he said. “It's become part of our DNA and we are seeing people struggling on a daily basis but they don't necessarily see that.

“I think people were just pleased that somebody in a high-powered position was actually listening to them. And certainly he was going to relay the difficulties of opening charity bank accounts back to Bank of England. It was a very useful forum and we were all grateful to Wiltshire Community Foundation for organising it.”

Wiltshire Community Foundation joint Chief Executive Vicky Hickey said “Facilitating events like the forum is a key part of our community leadership role and how we advocate for and support our county’s voluntary sector.

“Charities and groups across Wiltshire and Swindon are doing incredible work to support the hardest hit in our communities and it is really important that the Bank of England get an understanding of the real challenges they are facing – and the struggles of the families and individuals who so badly need their help. That is why the Bank of England’s community forums are such a valuable initiative.

“This is the third forum we have been involved in and we were pleased to be able to bring everyone together for these important discussions. We would like to thank KFR for hosting, all of the charity representatives for their insightful contributions and Mr Shortall and his colleagues for making the time to come and listen so attentively.”

Mr Shortall said “It is vital for the Bank of England to engage with communities across the UK – we can’t make informed decision without this input – so I’m very grateful to Wiltshire Community Foundation for bringing so many charities together for this event.

“We discussed the challenges the charity sector in Wiltshire are facing across the board in keeping pace with the demand for their services and the many innovative ways organisations are trying to keep the show on the road. KFR was one of them – particular thanks to them for hosting us and for giving us such a vivid insight into their unique and effective business model.”