TACKLING poverty and creating more jobs could boost our region’s economy by hundreds of millions of pounds a year, experts have said.

Campaigners, politicians, local authority officials and charity workers gathered in Leeds yesterday for the launch of a new project backed by the York-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The JRF and the Leeds City Region, which includes York, have launched their More Jobs, Better Jobs initiative, which aims to ensure the poorest people and communities are not left behind in the economic recovery.

Prof Mike Campbell, project advisor for JRF, told a packed Leeds Civic Hall that regional leaders must work together to show that tackling poverty made economic sense. He said halving unemployment in the Leeds City Region would be worth £700 million a year to the region.

He said the nature of growth was as important as the level of growth, but also warned against those who called merely for redistribution of existing resources.

Julia Unwin, chief executive of the JRF, told the audience: “As we come out of the deepest recession any of us can remember, there is a very real danger we leave poor people and placed behind in the rush for growth.”

She said society could not afford to allow much of its skills-base to remain unused.