The Policy Development Committee (PDC) for Poverty Reduction, chaired by Mary, meets monthly as either a formal, public meeting or an informal working group, to discuss ways to improve life for people on low incomes and to develop policies that will help.
PDCs are meant to be cross-party, but the largest opposition group (Lib Dems & Independents) decided they didn’t want to participate, and the two Conservative members who served on the Poverty Reduction PDC last year have also dropped out. This is a shame because stronger policies are developed when you have a greater diversity of views and experiences around the table, but fortunately the committee includes Labour councillors and others with a great breadth of professional and life experience.
For the 2019/20 municipal year, the committee decided to focus on a few main themes:
- The advice and support people receive from the Council when they fall into debt.
- The council’s approach to “debt recovery” – getting residents to pay the council what they owe – including the way letters are written.
- The need for more deprived parts of Swansea, which suffer worse health, greater stress and shorter life expectancy, to have more greenery installed. Trees, shrubs and greenery protect spaces from adverse weather, reduce heart rate and blood pressure and clean the air, so this is an issue of social justice and equality as well as environmental benefit.
As well as working on policies to address these 3 main concerns, the committee receives regular updates about the Poverty Truth Commission. This specific way of bringing together local decision-makers and people on low incomes has been very successful elsewhere in the UK and we are very proud that Swansea is home to the first one in Wales. We also receive updates from the council’s Tackling Poverty Service about issues being discussed in the various groups that work to address poverty in Swansea:
Financial Inclusion Steering Group: A group of representatives from many different agencies, including housing associations, charities and voluntary organisations, different council departments and interested businesses, to look at how people on low incomes can access mainstream financial services such as bank accounts, affordable credit and online banking/shopping facilities.
Poverty Partnership Forum: A large group of varied members similar to the FISG but with a wider focus on all manner of issues relating to poverty, including employment, health, access to services and opportunities, and ways for those on low incomes to have their voices heard.
Poverty Forum: A group of council officers, chaired by the Deputy Chief Executive, which ensures everyone is working together to make progress towards the actions in the Tackling Poverty Strategy.
Through these links, the PDC can be alerted if a policy gap exists. Policy gaps can mean that council teams might not be working in the most joined-up way, because of have different ideas of what is important or what is expected of them. As elected politicians, it’s our job to make that clear.
Contact us for more information about Policy Development Committees.