MUCH more action is needed if York's anti-poverty vision is to be realised and crucial targets hit, new figures suggest.

A year ago today City of York Council's cabinet approved a vision for a "poverty-free York", building on work by various organisations, including The Press.

New figures show that, at the half-way point, progress has been made on some measures but not on others.

The council believes the aim of reducing the pay gap between the average and the lowest quarter of earners has been hit, but the number of eligible children receiving free school meals has increased only from 73.9 to 74.9 per cent, and has fallen in secondary schools, meaning only major and rapid change will enable the two-year target of 100 per cent to be hit.

Verifiable figures against some targets are unavailable, although the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance has reduced by 35 per cent already, against a 40 per cent three-year target, and new data from the Office of National Statistics later this week should clarify progress elsewhere.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation's chief executive Julia Unwin, who guest-edited a special edition of The Press a year ago today, said the work so far should be applauded but more work was needed. She called on York to live up to its historic achievements in pioneering reform and social change.

Kersten England, council chief executive, said: "It is clear we have made progress in one of the first objectives, which is people being in work, and I firmly believe work and good work will eradicate a lot of poverty. But many household incomes are in decline - one in five people do not earn the Living Wage and I think we have much much more work to do.

"We can also point to evidence of good work on bringing down the cost of living, and supporting people really struggling with finances - but there are some really big challenges: wages, housing, the cost of living, childcare and transport costs to a lesser extent."

Steve Hughes, managing editor of The Press, said: "A year on from the adoption of the poverty-free vision, it is clear progress has been made – but more action is needed. The Press remains committed to this vision, and we look forward to working with others in the city to help those who are struggling most. This is vital work for York, and it is important than the momentum and drive of a year ago is not lost.”

The York Poverty Action Group, which drew up the targets adopted by the cabinet last July, included City of York Council, The Press, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, church representatives, the NHS, the Citizens Advice Bureau, the South Yorkshire Credit Union and the York Economic Partnership.


Mixed progress

THERE has been mixed progress against last July’s targets, with some good news, some continuing problems, and some as yet unmeasured progress

AIM: Five per cent more of York’s workforce in work than national average. New statistics this week should gauge progress, says the council.

AIM: 40 per cent reduction in unemployment over three years. There has been a 35 per cent reduction so far.

AIM: 1,000 new private sector jobs a year. Precise figures are unavailable, says the council. The arrival of John Lewis and Hiscox have been positives.

AIM: 50 more Living Wage employers a year. The Living Wage Coalition has been established but confirmed new recruits have fallen short of the target. The council says an overall count is difficult.

AIM: Reduce the pay gap between the median and the lowest quarter of earners by one per cent. The council believes this may have been met but is awaiting official figures.

AIM: Increase financial education in schools by 50 per cent in two years and give ten per cent more money advice. York Citizens Advice Bureau says demand for money and debt advice has soared, but the amount of provision has remained the same since last year. Between the first quarters of this year and last, the number of people accessing money and debt advice has barely changed. York CAB is leading on an Advice York review.

AIM: 100 per cent take-up of free school meals by eligible children. The figure has increased from 73.9 per cent to 74.9 per cent, and has actually fallen slightly in secondaries.

AIM: Reduce the cost of living. The York Financial Assistance Scheme has helped 1,700 people and the energy-switching scheme helped 200. All eligible two-year-olds have free childcare, ahead of the 80 per cent national target.

AIM: Two fewer rough sleepers. The number has increased from eight to nine.

AIM: 100 businesses giving to local charities. Proposals are being drawn up, but there is no quantifiable success yet. Individual projects by local charities and York Harvest last year have made a small contribution.

Julia Unwin - Progress has been made - but there is much more to do>>