Herpreet Kaur Grewal

The Government must invest more money if it is to reach its 2010 target to halve child poverty, the politician charged with writing the Labour Party’s next election manifesto has admitted.

Social exclusion minister Ed Miliband told delegates at the launch of a major project into poverty and inequality that the Government must commit the extra cash “despite difficult economic circumstances”.

The Government aims to eliminate child poverty by 2020. But in 2006, official figures showed that the Government had missed its interim target to cut child poverty by a quarter by 2004/05 (R&R, 17 March 2006, p9).

Then, last year, government statistics revealed that the number of children living in relative poverty rose by 100,000 between 2004/05 and 2005/06 (R&R, 30 March 2007, p2). Campaigners estimate that £4 billion over and above current commitments is needed to meet the 2010 target to halve child poverty.

Miliband said the Government remains “committed” to meeting the target, but he admitted that it is a “very challenging” goal.

Speaking at the event, Martin Narey, chief executive of charity Barnardo’s, said that money allocated in last year’s Comprehensive Spending Review to cut inheritance tax for richer families could have instead been used to raise the income of the poorest households.

This seemed to undermine the Government’s commitment to end child poverty, he said.

But Miliband said: “Part and parcel of the process of remaining in government is that a judgement has to be made about (issues such as inheritance tax), but that shouldn’t mean we don’t find (extra) money for child poverty.”

He added that he was “not convinced” that enough of a consensus had been built among the public and politicians about the need to effectively tackle poverty.

He said: “A part of all our jobs is to find ways to make graphic and compelling (arguments) as to what the challenges are … It’s a hard thing to do to foster a spirit of solidarity in local areas to tackle the issue.”

Miliband was launching an 18-month research project into poverty, inequality and affluence that is to be carried out by think-tank the Fabian Society (R&R, 1 February, p8). The project has been commissioned by charity the Webb Memorial Trust.