Council leader pledges to tackle poverty

Councillor Robin Currie, Argyll and Bute Council leader.

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Argyll and Bute Council’s leader has told health chiefs that more needs to be done to tackle poverty in the area.

Kintyre and the Islands councillor Robin Currie spoke after the area’s health and social care partnership (HSCP) published a review of its child poverty action plan for 2020/21.

The review found that 23.3 per cent of children in the area were living in poverty in 2019/20, a slight reduction on the previous year.

The definition for the figures was living below 60 per cent of median income after housing costs.

Councillor Currie gave his reaction to the review, and pledged to continue the battle against poverty, at a meeting of the HSCP’s integration joint board last Wednesday, June 16.

He said: ‘I know it has been said that poverty in Argyll and Bute has come down a bit, but for me, it remains far too high.

‘To have 3,000 children in poverty in Argyll and Bute in the year 2021 is just not something you can live with.

‘That is why the council is treating poverty as a high priority, and also why we set up a financial inclusion and advice group, which Judy Orr [head of finance and transformation] has chaired very well until her retirement. I will now be taking over as chair.

‘Poverty, and in particular child poverty, is something we are taking very seriously and we hope to reduce it greatly in the not-too-distant future.’

Councillor Currie added: ‘We are more than just talking about it. Even in the last council budget, we put in £600,000, and there will be more money for welfare rights, which will help.

‘In the last three years, welfare rights staff have taken in around £3 million each year, which is amazing.

‘There is also the flexible fund, which is money we get from the Scottish Government. Of £537,000, £185,000 will hopefully be agreed at a council meeting next week to go to the health and social care partnership for their project.

‘We are dishing out grants at area committees and are giving a higher priority to ones tackling poverty.

‘But I have got to say that poverty is not always recognised. Poverty can be people in bad housing, or not in any housing at all.

‘It can be social isolation or transport or lack of it or travel or lack of community facilities. There is a problem in Argyll and Bute of people being in seasonal work on low wages.

‘It all contributes, so it is a huge issue for us in Argyll and Bute that we have to tackle head on, and do all the things we are doing, and all we hope to do in the future.’