The Council week has been dominated by meetings of Scrutiny committees . I attended the Economy Scrutinycommittee as half the items on the agenda were in my portfolio. The other half were mainly in my deputy, Councillor Sue Murphy's portfolio, but Sue had to attend a very important European funding meeting, the other deputy was on leave, so I agreed to cover the whole meeting. Something wrong there - I'm sure they're supposed to be deputising for me, not the other way round. There were a number of big items on the agenda but the two that took up the most time were the Work Programme and the Family Poverty Strategy.
Representatives from Job Centre+ and two of ( the three ) prime contractors attended to answer questions on the Work Programme and gave a very good account of themselves. Whatever the flaws in the programme, particularly compared to the earlier Future Jobs Fund, for thousands of unemployed people, especially the 18-24 year-olds it's the only show in town and we need to try and make it work. The Family Poverty Strategy report was a difficult one. The solutions it offers are largely medium to long-term when in the short-term many of our poorest families are going to made even poorer by the coalition government's welfare cuts. A task not just for the Council but for many other agencies is to find ways of ameliorating what is likely to take on crisis proportions in the short-term whilst the underlying causes of family poverty are tackled in the longer term.