Strategy to help thousands of Northamptonshire children living in poverty voted down

There was a heated debate yesterday about Cllr Birch's suggestion to draw up a poverty strategy.
There was a heated debate yesterday about Cllr Birch's suggestion to draw up a poverty strategy.

A bid to put together a strategy to help the young and old in Northamptonshire who are living in poverty has been defeated.

The ruling conservative administration at Northamptonshire County Council voted against Labour Councillor Jane Birch’s motion, which she said would have a positive impact on some 47,000 poor Northamptonshire children.

The council chamber in Northampton saw heated words, passionate speeches and accusations of playing politics as a number of councillors from across Northamptonshire had their say.

In the motion, Councillor Birch said she wanted the council to produce a poverty strategy document that would be given to the two new unitaries that will replace the county council and the district and borough councils in 2021.

Introducing the motion Councillor Birch said that children within the county were going hungry and poverty was impacting on their educational achievements.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Dennis Meredith received a number of jeers for his accusation that the conservative government had created the situation.

He said: “What a slight on us and the Conservative government. When we have a Conservative government the levels of people in poverty rise at a rapid rate.”

Cabinet member for adult care commissioning Councillor Morris said he was appalled at Councillor Meredith’s suggestion and accused Councillor Birch of ‘gesture’ politics – claiming that the motion had come from the Labour party’s regional office.

However, his fellow Conservative Councillor Perry disagreed and said that Councillor Birch and the motion’s seconder Councillor Danielle Stone were very concerned about the issue.

But she did echo the suggestion of Councillor Richard Auger that a poverty strategy was something that should be looked at by the new unitary councils that will be set up.

She said: “Whilst it is very honourable we have got to get our house in order first and all the attention of ourselves and officers need to be focussed on that.”

Councillor Sandra Naden Horley said there had always been poverty in the country and the way to tackle it was through education.

She said: “When you get qualifications you can get a better job. The opportunities are out there but we don’t get enough uptake.”

She was taken to task for her words by independent Councillor James Hakewill who said: “We have always had poverty? Does that make it okay? We used to have scurvy.”

The ruling opposition voted against the motion and the opposition Labour group, Liberal Democrats and independents voted for it.