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02.03.16

Local government optimism to tackle inequality ‘thrilling’ – MPs told

A leading inequality expert told Parliament yesterday that although the problem is still severe in the UK, local authorities’ attitude towards solving it is “thrilling”.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot, director of the Institute of Health Equity at University College London, told the Health Select Committee that key indicators, including income, education and housing, show that inequality is a serious problem.

However, he said it was encouraging that local councils were willing to tackle the problem despite the financial pressures they face. For instance, a recent Local Government Information Unit report warned that councils will have to increase charges, dip into reserves and cut frontline services in the next financial year.

Sir Michael said: “There’s a level of optimism and commitment that I encounter in local government that’s thrilling. They say we’re not going to whine and say it’s all too difficult, you’ve given us an agenda and we’re going to play the hand we’re dealt with.”

He said three quarters of local councils had a plan to implement recommendations he made in a 2013 report warning that the UK is “failing our children” over poverty and lack of opportunity.

He also said that too many people in the UK were either unemployed or in insecure and unfulfilling employment, and echoed the earlier report’s warning that the high numbers of young people not in education, training or employment pose a “public health time bomb.”

Sir Michael said: “If they’re not employed and don’t have a future, they’re the ones who cause mayhem in the streets.”

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