War on poverty is stepped up a gear

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ONE in five Falkirk people are living in relative poverty, a report has revealed.

According to the study, which gives a snapshot of the town’s socio-economic position, youth unemployment is higher than the Scottish average, while almost half of locals live on less than £15,000 a year.

Over 3000 youngsters live in severe poverty while others miss birthday parties and school trips, saying they are sick or don’t want to go because they know their parents’ financial worries.

Meanwhile, the town’s personal debt is sitting at a staggering £169 million.

These are some of the issues which councillors hope a new 10-year poverty strategy will address by reducing the gap between rich and poor and making social, health and housing opportunities available to all.

The four-pronged plan called ‘Towards a Fairer Falkirk’ aims to reduce inequalities and combat poverty-causing issues like unemployment and ill health.

Council leader Craig Martin said: “This policy is a fundamental attack on poverty across all our communities and this is one of our highest priorities.

“It is clear real hardship is faced by many families who are cutting back on their spending.

“Those cutbacks aren’t on luxuries such as second cars or overseas holidays, but on far more fundamental items such as going without electricity or children not having more than one pair of outdoor shoes.

“And with around 10 per cent of local children and young people in severe poverty, this is simply unacceptable.

“The policy will be an addition to some of the existing work carried out by Falkirk Council and its partners but brings together for the first time a real focus to significantly reduce poverty.”

The plan will use £1.7 million to tackle root causes of poverty by helping people find and keep employment and deal with money problems.

But the opposition says the strategy doesn’t go far enough and accused the administration of “poverty-making” policies.

SNP Group Leader David Alexander said: “If the Labour/Tory administration of Falkirk Council are serious about tackling poverty, they have to stop implementing policies that make the effects of poverty worse.

“Councillors who introduced punitive charges for essential social services have caused hardship and heartache to hundreds of low-income vulnerable people; 48 per cent increases in school meal charges in over just three years and massive cuts in funding are all poverty-creating policies not poverty alleviating.”