Saffron Walden councillors reject calls to set up child poverty working group

COUNCILLORS have rejected calls to set up a working group to look into tackling the escalating issue of child poverty.

Saffron Walden resident Martyn Everett presented a report on the topic to the town council last Thursday.

He highlighted some key facts from the report – compiled on the back of the Reporter’s article on the issue in February – notably that more than 300 children in the town are living in poverty while forecasts suggest as many as one in five children could be living in poverty by 2020.

He said there were many ways in which the town council could help to address the issue yet, despite his pleas, councillors decided against launching a working group to look into it.

After the meeting, Mr Everett said: “The council’s decision was not unexpected as many of the councillors attempted to block my suggestion when I first raised it at the annual town meeting. But I am disappointed.

“Many councillors genuinely believe that child poverty is somebody else’s problem but it isn’t.

“This is a problem which is not simply going to disappear.

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“Of course, there may be other ways of tackling this issue, but without the involvement of the town council they will be far less effective.”

Cllr Mike Hibbs proposed the recommendation to set up a working group. He described the figures of child poverty as “shocking” and said it was the council’s duty to act.

“There are many things this council can do to assist people who are in poverty. A working group would be able to consider what is appropriate and what can be done,” he said at the meeting.

“We should be taking a proactive approach against child poverty and not just responding to need.”

However, only one other councillor, Ben Ballinger, voted in favour.

Members raised concerns that a working group could duplicate work being carried out by other organisations in the town, such as the CAB and Uttlesford District Council’s Local Strategic Partnership.

Cllr David Watson also said the council was at “the wrong level” to deal with the issue.

“All we can do is talk,” he said. “A working group needs to be set up by an authority which has power and money to do something positive.”

It was agreed that the council put a representative on UDC’s Employment, Economic, Skills, Environment & Transport working group.

Mayor Keith Eden said the group already looks into these types of issues and provides assistance and support.

“It is a logical place to start,” he said.