I want to start this week’s blog by passing on sincere condolences to everyone affected by the Brussels terror attacks.
Such incidents never fail to shock us. They are a terrible waste of life, involving innocent people going about their everyday business, and the repercussions are felt all over the world.
We all remember the Paris attacks in November. I visited the French capital shortly after those atrocities, seeing the personal tributes to the victims which emphasised the brutality and waste. I intend to visit Brussels – I want to pay my personal respects to the dead, the injured, their families and friends and the nation as a whole.
This will be a show of solidarity with the people of Belgium and I am inviting fellow Kirklees Councillors, from any political background, to join me on that trip. We will be funding the visit personally, of course, and it will be important for us to demonstrate that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our friends from Brussels.
I’M PLEASED to say that the council has agreed an updated version of our plan to tackle poverty in Kirklees.
This vital piece of work was led by four of my Labour colleagues – Cllrs Viv Kendrick, Cathy Scott, Marielle O’Neill and Sheikh Ullah. It aims to provide practical help for those in local communities who are suffering the effects of poverty and also to play a key role in ensuring Kirklees is a place where healthy people enjoy a great quality of life via a strong and growing economy.
The strategy concentrates on the things that we, as a local authority, can do to support people – whether they already suffer from poverty or at risk of doing so. And there are some stark facts that highlight the need for this work:
One in three Kirklees households is in poverty, a figure which includes around 18,000 children
- One in four Kirklees households has an annual income below £10,000
- One in five older people are classed as being in poverty
We made a start some time ago by being an early adopter of the Living Wage for council staff, as well as through our contributions to the Combined Authority’s Low Pay Charter. But we are determined to do more by tackling the root causes of poverty (in areas such as education and employment) and also by getting more money into people’s pockets so that we tackle the symptoms.
The new-look strategy, which has just been adopted by full council, is underpinned by:
- Pockets – policies to boost household resources
- Prospects – our work to improve long-term life chances for local people
- Prevention – to prevent people sliding into poverty
- Places – providing the services which help to enhance job prospects
We are looking at some very practical steps. These include helping people to move away from loan sharks or payday lenders. As part of this, we are working to bring a credit union back to the authority so that residents can get help with financial management.
But, looking wider, there’s a whole host of actions to be taken as part of our strategy. You can read lots more about them here. We are determined – truly determined – to address these issues and make a lasting difference in people’s lives.