Invite to Holyrood ministers to see how West Lothian Council tackles poverty

Scottish Government ministers need to visit West Lothian if they want to see the best way of tackling poverty.

By Stuart Sommerville, LDR
Monday, 24th January 2022, 6:00 am
West Lothian Council logo
West Lothian Council logo

That was the message from a meeting of the council’s Executive this week when they considered a response to a Holyrood consultation on the practical actions that can be taken to end the need for foodbanks.

Government consultation papers presented to the executive suggested the works that are already under way.

The Government consultation document opened with: “We have met our commitment to engage with stakeholders within the first 100 days of this government to start considering how it can be delivered, and have invited cross-party and expert representatives to form a Steering Group to progress delivery.”

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The papers added: “This work will also incorporate the idea of Universal Basic Services, which by ensuring people have access to the provision of basic services – such as childcare for example – contributes to ensuring a minimum standard of living.”

There was broad agreement with the response to the consultation by staff from the council’s anti-poverty service.

Councillor Kirsteen Sullivan Labour deputy leader said: “I have heard the manager of the foodbank say on umpteen occasions that her aim is not to have a foodbank anymore. I think that the support structures that we have in place work very well. I think it would be good if the Scottish Government came to see some of the good practice going on in West Lothian.”

West Lothian’s foodbank helped feed more than 10,000 adults and children last year.

Cllr Sullivan added: “Here in West Lothian we have a holistic approach to dealing with food insecurity based on dignity, lived experience, and partnership working. Many of the proposals mentioned in this consultation are already happening here such as the co-location of advice services with food support. West Lothian Council will continue to work with local community partners and volunteers to ensure local people can access help, support and advice to see them through these difficult times.”

SNP depute leader Councillor Frank Anderson said: “We welcome this response to the consultation and would echo what it says. This is the 21st century but in many ways it is worse than Victorian Dickensian poverty.”

He raised a general question regarding the circulation of the report a week before it has to be lodged with Holyrood. Councillor Anderson said he appreciated that the political groups had seen the details but argued that councillors should have had more time to consider them.

It was pointed out that staff had to provide answers to the consultation while continuing to work under the increased pressure the anti-poverty service had faced for months.