Children's clothing is hung out to dry on a residential development in the London borough of Tower Hamlets on February 21, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Labour calls for OBR to monitor child poverty rates

The party says the watchdog should track the government's record after progress goes into reverse. 

One of Labour's proudest achievements in government was the reduction of 800,000 in child poverty from 3.4m to 2.6m, the lowest level since the mid-1980s. But the coalition's unbalanced austerity programme means that this trend has gone into reverse. In 2012-13, relative child poverty before housing costs did not change, while measured after housing costs it rose by 100,000. The forecast increase of 600,000 by 2015-16 will reverse all of the reductions that took place under Labour between 2000-01 and 2010-11. 

In response, the party is calling for the OBR, the budgetary watchdog founded by George Osborne in 2010, to be given responsibility for monitoring and reporting on the government’s progress in tackling child poverty. 

Here's the statement from shadow economic secretary to the Treasury Catherine McKinnell:

David Cameron promised to lead the most family friendly government ever. But these figures show his choices have hit families with children hardest of all, while millionaires have been given a huge tax cut.

The progress Labour made in reducing child poverty has ground to a halt under the Tories and independent forecasts say it is set to rise.

This isn’t good enough. The Office for Budget Responsibility should be required to monitor and report on the government’s progress on reducing child poverty. This should include analysing the impact of Budget decisions on the level of child poverty.

George Osborne hasn’t made a single mention of child poverty in his last three Budget speeches. Boosting the role of the OBR to monitor child poverty would make it more difficult for governments and Chancellors to ignore the problem and the impact of their choices.

Labour’s plan to deal with the cost-of-living crisis will tackle child poverty and make work pay as we balance the books in a fairer way. We will expand free childcare, freeze energy bills, increase the minimum wage, incentivise the living wage, scrap the bedroom tax and get more homes built.

Given how crucial the reduction of child poverty is to spreading opportunity, and the coalition's well-noted tendency to manipulate statistics, it's a welcome proposal. But with all the forecasts pointing in the wrong direction for the government, it's unlikely that Osborne will accept this extension of the OBR's remit. Labour has previously sought to turn the Chancellor's creation to its advantage by inviting it to audit its tax and spending commitments: a proposal he rejected. 

In the meantime, the party has carried out a new analysis of the Households Below Average Income (HBAI) statistics, which show that families with children have suffered larger falls in their living standards than those without. A couple with two children aged 5 and 14 are on average £2,132 a year worse off in real terms since 2009-10, while a couple with no children are £1,404 a year worse off. A single person with two children aged 5 and 14 is on average £1,664 a year worse off in real terms since 2009-10, while a single person with no children is £936 a year worse off.

Further analysis found that material deprivation measures of child poverty are on the rise. There are now 300,000 more children living in families that can’t afford to keep their house warm – a total of 1.7m  - 400,000 more living in families that can’t afford to make savings of £10 a month - now a total of 6m - and half a million more living in families that can’t afford to replace broken electrical goods – now a total of 3.6m. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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The New Statesman 2016 local and devolved elections liveblog

Results and analysis from elections across the United Kingdom. 

Welcome to the New Statesman's elections liveblog. Results will be coming in from the devolved legislatures in Scotland and Wales, local elections in England, and the mayoral contests in London, Salford, Bristol and Liverpool. Hit refresh for updates!

22:52: Hearing that turnout is low in Waltham Forest, Lewisham, Hackney and my birthplace of Tower Hamlets (the borough's best export unless you count Dizzie Rascal, Tinchy Stryder or Harry Redknapp, that's me). Bad news for Labour unless turnout is similarly low in the Tory-friendly outer boroughs. 

22:47: YouGov have done a poll (note: not an exit poll, it should not be taken as seriously as an exit poll and if you call it an exit poll I swear to god I will find you and kill you) of the Welsh Assembly. Scores on the door:

Labour 27

Plaid Cymru 12 

Conservatives 11

Ukip 8

Liberal Democrat 2

There are 60 seats in the Assembly, so you need 30 seats for a majority of one. 

22:40: In case you're wondering, how would closing a seven point deficit to say, six, compare to previous Labour oppositions, I've done some number-crunching. In 1984, Neil Kinnock's Labour turned a Tory lead of 15 per cent at the general election to a Conservative lead of just one per cent. In 1988, one of 12 per cent went down to one per cent. (He did, of course, go on to lose in both the 1987 and 1992 elections). In 1993, John Smith's Labour party turned a deficit of eight points at the general to a Labour lead of eight points in the local elections. William Hague turned a Labour lead of 13 points to one of just six in 1998, while Iain Duncan Smith got a Tory lead of just one point - from a Labour lead of nine. In 2006, new Tory leader David Cameron turned a 3 point Labour lead to a 13 point Tory one. Ed Miliband - remember him? - got from a Tory lead of seven points to a two point Labour one. 

22:35: John McDonnell is setting out what would be a good night as far as the party leadership is concerned - any improvement on the 2015 defeat, when the party trailed by close to seven points. Corbyn's critics say he needs to make around 400 gains.

I've written about what would be good at length before, but here's an extract:

"Instead of worrying overmuch about numbers, worry about places. Although winning seats and taking control of councils is not a guarantee of winning control of the parliamentary seat – look at Harlow, Nuneaton, and Ipswich, all of which have Labour representation at a local level but send a Conservative MP to Westminster – good performances, both in terms of increasing votes and seats, are a positive sign. So look at how Labour does in its own marginals and in places that are Conservative at a Westminster level, rather than worrying about an exact figure either way."

22:31: Oh god, the BBC's election night music is starting. Getting trauma flashbacks to the general election. 

22:22: A few of you have been in touch about our exit poll. Most of you have been wondering about that one vote for George Galloway but the rest are wondering what happens - under the rules of the London mayoral race (and indeed the contests in Salford, Bristol and Liverpool), 2 votes would not be enough for Sadiq. (He needs 2.5). However, all the other candidates are tied - which makes it through to the second round. What happens then is the second preferences are used as a tie-break. Of the tied candidates, Sian Berry has the most second preferences so she goes through to face Sadiq Khan in the final round. Final round is as follows:

Sadiq Khan: 3

Sian Berry: 2

3 votes is above the quota so he is duly elected. An early omen? 

22:19: Burnham latest. A spokesperson for Andy Burnham says:

"Approaches have been made to Andy Burnham to give consideration to this role. It is early days and no decision as been taken. Whatever the decision, he will continue to serve the leader of the party and stay in the shadow cabinet."

22:17: Anyway, exit poll of the office. We've got:

Sadiq Khan: 2

George Galloway: 1

Caroline Pidgeon: 1

Sian Berry: 1

22:15: Update on Andy Burnham. He has been asked to consider running. More as we get it. 

22:13: People are asking if there's an exit poll tonight. Afraid not (you can't really do an exit poll in elections without national swing). But there is a YouGov poll from Wales and I am conducting an exit poll of the four remaining members of staff in the NS building. 

22:11: It's true! Andy Burnham is considering running for Greater Manchester mayor. Right, that's it, I'm quitting the liveblog. Nothing I say tonight can top that. 

22:09: Rumours that professional Scouser Andy Burnham is considering a bid for Greater Manchester mayor according to Sky News. Not sure if this is a) a typo for Merseyside or b) a rumour or c) honestly I don't know. More as I find out. 

22:06: Conservatives are feeling good about Trafford, one of the few councils they run in the North West.

22:03: Polls have closed. Turnout looks to be low in London. What that means is anyone's guess to be honest. There isn't really a particular benefit to Labour if turnout is high although that is a well-worn myth. In the capital in particular, turnout isn't quite as simple a zero-sum game as all that. Labour are buoyant, but so are the Tories. In Scotland, well, the only questions are whether or not the SNP will win every single first past the post seat or just the overwhelming majority. Both Labour and Tory sources are downplaying their chances of prevailing in the battle for second place at Holyrood, so make of that what you will. And in Wales, Labour look certain to lose seats but remain in power in some kind of coalition deal. 

22:00: Good evening. I'm your host, Stephen Bush, and I'll be with you throughout the night as results come in from throughout the country. The TV screens are on, I've just eaten, and now it's time to get cracking. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.