Last Word

20.10.16

Local government must be at the frontline of the fight against poverty

Source: PSE Oct/Nov 16

Katharine Knox, policy and research manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), on why we must make sure local areas have the powers, incentives and capacity to tackle poverty.

In the aftermath of the Brexit vote and with austerity hitting people hard, poverty is no longer a peripheral issue, but one that demands attention and action at all levels – from central and local government, employers, voluntary organisations and communities and public service providers. 

With a staggering 13.5 million people living in poverty in the UK and over one million people facing destitution last year, we need a renewed focus on action across the political spectrum and from all parts of society. 

This is why the JRF has developed a new five-point plan to address poverty and is calling for action to: 

  1. Boost incomes and reduce costs – including by building 80,000 genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy in England each year, by investing £1bn per year. Local authorities have a key role to play here
  2. Deliver an effective benefits system – reversing the cuts to the work allowance under Universal Credit and setting it at a level that provides a decent safety net
  3. Improve education standards and raise skills – closing the attainment gap for children by raising standards, continuing to direct additional funding to children from poorer backgrounds, supporting professional development of teachers and experimenting with pay premiums
  4. Strengthen families and communities – building a family hub in every area so parents and families can access parenting support
  5. Promote long-term and inclusive economic growth – by giving mayors and city-regions the powers, incentives and budgets to generate growth that reaches everyone in their boroughs 

Addressing poverty was fundamental to the establishment of the welfare state and core services like public health and social housing. Today, poverty is estimated to cost £69bn for related public services, including health, education, justice, and child and adult social services – £1 in every £5 spent on public services. 

Local government and other public service providers are central to fighting poverty. But their ability to take action has been curtailed due to austerity, with councils in England losing over a quarter of their spending power due to budget cuts between 2010-11 and 2015-16. The most deprived local authorities saw cuts of £220 per head compared with under £40 for the least deprived. 

In this context, it is critical that public service providers do what they can to protect those services that provide a vital safety net for people in poverty, including support for those with complex needs. But they cannot afford to take their eye off the long term and there are significant opportunities for policymakers at all levels to drive poverty reduction. Preventative action will save money and costs to public services later. And risks like climate change cannot be ignored. 

Devolution provides major opportunities to use new powers to support people on low incomes.  Local authorities can take a leadership role, developing an economic vision for their area which supports more and better jobs, bringing partners together to support local skills and labour market development and enabling people on low incomes to be better connected with job opportunities through improved transport or digital provision. They need to champion inclusive growth, using opportunities like public procurement and apprenticeships to help people on low incomes. 

We need to make sure local areas have the powers, incentives and capacity to tackle poverty. 

Poverty will not be solved from Whitehall or by central government alone – but by the policymakers closer to those people experiencing it. 

While local authorities face unprecedented reductions to their budgets, greater powers in vital areas such as transport, housing, employment support and skills could be harnessed to help those on low incomes. But they will need support from central government to deal with the fallout of Brexit, which jeopardises substantial EU regional investment. Changes to the future funding of local government, and reliance on business rates, also risks further polarising the wealthier and more deprived parts of the country. 

Solving poverty won’t be easy and won’t happen overnight, but local leaders can be at the frontline of the fight.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

JRF’s strategy to solve UK poverty can be accessed at:

W: www.jrf.org.uk/solve-uk-poverty

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Councils must set out rough sleeping strategies by 2019 or face government action, Brokenshire warns

10/12/2018Councils must set out rough sleeping strategies by 2019 or face government action, Brokenshire warns

All councils must publish detailed rough sleeping and homelessness strategies by winter 2019 or face government intervention if they fail to do s... more >
Council fined thousands after pleading guilty to ‘catastrophic’ disease outbreak

07/12/2018Council fined thousands after pleading guilty to ‘catastrophic’ disease outbreak

Tendring District Council has been fined £27,000 after the local authority pleaded guilty to a health and safety breach when an outbreak of... more >
High Court slams Herefordshire council for ‘woeful’ children’s care after failing children ‘on a serious and serial basis’

07/12/2018High Court slams Herefordshire council for ‘woeful’ children’s care after failing children ‘on a serious and serial basis’

Herefordshire council has apologised for failing children in two separate cases through its “woeful” children’s services after ... more >

interviews

New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

05/11/2018New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

The new chief executive of one of the new unitary authorities in Dorset has outlined his approach to culture and work with employees, arguing tha... more >
Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

15/10/2018Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

On 6 September, the biggest decision-makers of the north joined forces to celebrate and debate how to drive innovation and improvement through th... more >
Cllr Cutts on dealing with children’s services pressures: ‘I can’t magic money out of the air’

26/09/2018Cllr Cutts on dealing with children’s services pressures: ‘I can’t magic money out of the air’

The leader of Nottinghamshire County Council has outlined her priorities for dealing with soaring demand of children’s services and social ... more >
Nottinghamshire considers unitary shake-up proposals in a bid to balance books

05/09/2018Nottinghamshire considers unitary shake-up proposals in a bid to balance books

Nottinghamshire County Council is considering proposals to scrap its current two-tier structure for a new unitary system in order to save on... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >

comment

The digital buying community is live

12/11/2018The digital buying community is live

Many of the requirements from buyers posted on the Digital Marketplace were either non-compliant or poorly worded, which resulted in challenges f... more >
A force to be reckoned with

12/11/2018A force to be reckoned with

The South Bank plan, which refers to a number of investments and proposed activities across a massive plot of land south of the River Aire, is on... more >
Less for less: the risk of 'core offers'

12/11/2018Less for less: the risk of 'core offers'

As councils across England struggle with their finances in the face of massive cuts from central government, Simon Edwards, director of the Count... more >
Social value in Greater Manchester: lessons learned

05/11/2018Social value in Greater Manchester: lessons learned

Peter Schofield, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) collaborative procurement programme manager, looks back at the region’s histo... more >
Councils must set out rough sleeping strategies by 2019 or face government action, Brokenshire warns

10/12/2018Councils must set out rough sleeping strategies by 2019 or face government action, Brokenshire warns

All councils must publish detailed rough sleeping and homelessness strategies by winter 2019 or face government intervention if they fail to do so as part of the government’s new road-map t... more >
Council fined thousands after pleading guilty to ‘catastrophic’ disease outbreak

07/12/2018Council fined thousands after pleading guilty to ‘catastrophic’ disease outbreak

Tendring District Council has been fined £27,000 after the local authority pleaded guilty to a health and safety breach when an outbreak of Legionnaires disease left a man fighting for his ... more >

the raven's daily blog

New framework addresses the importance of digital transformation for the public sector

04/12/2018New framework addresses the importance of digital transformation for the public sector

Ryan Reed, head of public sector sales at Swiss Post Solution (SPS), reveals the new ESPO 390 framework, which can help address the need for digital transformation across the public sector.  The administrative and financial burden of manual processes and physical records is taking its toll on across the public sector. The g... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >