Work is under way on a strategy to tackle the ‘root causes of poverty’ in East Devon.
Councillors earlier this year agreed to set up a Poverty Working Panel to address issues such as income and employment, debt and financial vulnerability, and food and nutrition.
Affordable warmth and water, affordable housing and homelessness, and health equality were also topics on the agenda.
The panel met for the first time in October and heard the Covid-19 pandemic has inevitably affected residents.
Increasing levels of unemployment, food poverty, budgeting and high levels of indebtedness were all highlighted.
Exmouth Halsdon ward member Councillor Megan Armstrong, East Devon District Council (EDDC) portfolio holder for sustainable homes and communities, said: “I was really pleased that this cross-party group contributed positively, with plenty of ideas for the poverty strategy.
“Members expressed their commitment to make sure this council does everything in its power to relieve poverty, in whatever form it takes, throughout the district.
“Covid-19 has made things worse, and we will try and address the root causes of poverty, and we want to focus on development of the poverty strategy and subsequent implementation.
“The panel is keen to move forward with the poverty strategy as swiftly as possible, especially in the current Covid-19 climate.
“To this end, the second meeting will be held as soon as possible on November 11, to explore further the formation of the strategy, which needs to be both evidence-based, using the council’s recent East Devon Poverty Report, and wherever possible to address the root causes of poverty.”
Honiton St Michael’s representative Cllr Mike Allen first put forward a motion for EDDC to ‘poverty-proof’ its policies a year ago.
He said this week that, while he was delighted work is under way, a delay in developing a strategy is ‘extreme tardiness’.
Cllr Allen added: “This has resulted in the routine channels of support being flooded during the pandemic first wave.
“Although things have begun to move forward with the first poverty reduction group meeting, by the time any action gets through the bureaucratic processes, the second wave, Brexit and the changes in furlough support will be on us.”