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Calls for task force to tackle child poverty in Suffolk rejected

By Jason Noble, Local Democracy Reporter

Calls to set up a task force to address children’s poverty in Suffolk have been rejected, despite new data revealing tens of thousands of youngsters growing up in poor households.

Data published by End Child Poverty in May revealed that Suffolk had 50,000 children living in poverty.

Coupled with the recent report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights by Professor Philip Alston, which was critical of the government’s stance on the issue, Suffolk County Council’s Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group put forward a motion demanding more action at the latest full council meeting.

Penny Otton.
Penny Otton.

It called on the council to set up a cross-party task group to investigate what actions could be taken, asked the leader of the council to write to central government and draw up a plan with the county’s district and borough councils and voluntary sector.

But the motion was rejected by 24 votes.

Penny Otton, leader of the Lib Dem, Green and Independent group, said: “I am deeply disappointed that the Conservatives at Suffolk County Council chose to ignore this opportunity to address poverty in Suffolk, simply because the UN’s report was critical of government policies.

“Who could have imagined that in the 21st Century there are families relying on food banks, having to decide between food and warmth.

“Suffolk County Council and the government have a responsibility to do all they can to eliminate poverty as a major priority.”

The End Child Poverty report sparked fears that children were going without breakfast before school in the morning, while families were missing out on days out and holidays.

I believe it would be much more beneficial to consider what we can do and what we are doing to address poverty - James Reeder

James Reeder, Conservative cabinet member for public health, said: “Whilst it is impossible to ignore Professor Alston’s report, I do consider it to be aimed largely at policies outside of Suffolk County Council’s direct influence.

“I believe it would be much more beneficial to consider what we can do and what we are doing to address poverty.”

Mr Reeder said he was determined to see a reduction in the figures, and pointed tothe council’s existing poverty strategy and further revisions to be published this November, as key.

He added: “We are already in constant contact with MPs who have the ear of the minister, and rather than having a standard suggestion of having a PDP [policy development panel] I believe we need to concentrate our efforts on driving forward the work this council is already doing and aspires to do.”

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