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Councils should be given new powers as part of ‘long-term deal’ on poverty

Councils should be given new funding and powers as part of an ambitious strategy to tackle poverty, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has recommended.

The foundation published a new manifesto on poverty today, which sets a target of ensuring that by 2030, less than 10% of the British population are in poverty at any one time and no one is destitute or in poverty for longer than two years.

It recommends focusing on five areas to achieve this – boosting income, delivering an effective benefits system, improving education standards, strengthening families and communities and promoting long-term economic growth.

Speaking at the report’s launch at Westminster, Julie Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “It’s shameful that in the 21st century, 13 million people in our wealthy country are living in poverty.

“A new ‘long-term deal’ to solve poverty is urgently needed so the first generation of ‘Brexit children’ starting school this week grow up in a country where no matter where they live, everyone has a chance of a decent and secure life. Previous approaches have been too piecemeal, failing to deal with issues such as the high cost of living.

“Poverty divides communities and generations; it harms people’s potential and strains families; it drains the public purse and holds back our economy. The prime minister has made a promise to make Britain work for everyone and reform capitalism. As Westminster reconvenes this week, I urge her to deliver on this promise. If we don’t take action now, poverty is set to increase for children and working-age adults. Poverty is the biggest social evil of our time – we must act now.”

The foundation said that the government should replace the European regional development funding that will be lost when the UK leaves the European Union with a Rebalancing Fund, worth £9.6bn in 2020-26. This would be allocated to devolved administrations and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in order to support inclusive growth.

In addition, it said that the Local Growth Fund should be remodelled to promote inclusive growth, and that local authorities should be incentivised to tackle poverty by allowing them to keep some of the savings achieved by helping someone find work.

Cllr Nick Forbes, senior vice chair of the LGA, said: “It is vital that momentum around devolution is not lost and we need to see more deals agreed sooner rather than later so people across the whole country can reap the benefits.”

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation also said that the controversial universal credit benefits should be reformed to help families out of poverty, including increasing the work allowance and raising the child element by 20%.

The foundation has previously warned that universal credit as it stands will mean a greater loss of income for poor areas than rich ones. It also suggested the idea of a Universal Pension for low-income older people.

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