Joe proposed that North Ayrshire Council set up a poverty task force at last week’s Council meeting after recent reports showed that 27% of children in the area live in poverty after housing costs.
The End Child Poverty report showed that North Ayrshire had the third highest level of child poverty in Scotland. Councillor Cullinane’s motion called on the Council to set up a task force to develop a strategy to reduce poverty and set a commitment to work towards it eradication.
In moving his motion joe highlighted the difference in life expectancy as another example of the inequality that exists within local communities. He used Stevenston Road in Kilwinning to show that on one side of the road, Whitehirst Park, life expectancy is 8 years higher than on the other side, Pennyburn. Labour Councillor David O’Neill added that the difference between Whitehirst Park and Fullarton in Irvine was even greater at 20+ years.
The SNP Council Leader Willie Gibson moved an amendment to the motion which, rather than set up a poverty task force to develop a strategy, will ask for a poverty seminar for all Councillors. Joe accepted the amendment stating he ‘wanted to avoid a cross party argument on such an important issue and would rather find a consensus across the Council’ but has vowed to bring the issue back to the Council if real action isn't forthcoming.
Speaking after the meeting Joe said,
"The recent End Child Poverty report highlighted the devastating extent of child poverty in North Ayrshire. 27% of local children are living in poverty after housing costs, the third highest rate in Scotland. This should focus the minds of all local politicians and that's why I believe the Council must do more to develop a strategy which sets out a path for reducing poverty with a firm commitment to working with National government to eradicate it all together."
"It seems to me that, although some strands of current Council work will have a positive impact on poverty, there is no overarching strategy. I accepted the amendment that we hold a seminar on poverty in North Ayrshire to allow all Councillors to be briefed on the issue and to have their input on how we reduce it. However, if the administration deliver one seminar and think that's our work over then I will bring the matter back to Council and press for real action through a poverty task force which brings together groups such as the Foodbank and 1st Alliance Credit Union to develop a long term strategy for tackling poverty in our area."
Motion by Councillor Cullinane, seconded by Councillor McNamara;
This Council notes with concern the recent End Child Poverty report which showed that, after housing costs, 27% of children in North Ayrshire live in Poverty.
We believe that tackling poverty needs to be a greater priority for all levels of Government and we as a Council are committed to working towards the eradication of child poverty in North Ayrshire.
With Council budgets ever decreasing there is a need for us to develop a poverty strategy that helps us prioritise our spending and allows us to lobby National Governments on key areas that can reduce child poverty in North Ayrshire. The Council therefore resolves to ask officers to bring forward a report to Cabinet on the establishment of a cross party Poverty task force for North Ayrshire to develop that poverty strategy. We ask that officers take into consideration how the membership of this task force can be inclusive to include local groups such as North Ayrshire Foodbank and 1st Alliance who help people in poverty whilst pulling on support from national organisations such as the Poverty Alliance."