Councillors call for more job and training services to return to Hucknall
Hucknall councillors have called on Nottinghamshire County Council to help bring services like Job Centre Plus back to the town’s high street.
Members of the Ashfield Independents group at County Hall made the calls after the scale of child poverty in places like Hucknall was revealed when figures for claimants of free school meals showed a dramatic rise in north Nottinghamshire.
As of July 2021 there are 5,244 claimants in the Ashfield district compared to 4,187 claimants at the start of the Covid pandemic in March 2020.
In Nottinghamshire overall, there are now 22,294 children who claim free school meals – up from 18,361 in March 2020.
The figures cover the 338 state-funded secondary, primary and special schools in Nottinghamshire.
The Ashfield Independents have used the figures to repeat their call for Hucknall Library to provide more opportunities for unemployed Hucknall residents to re-train.
They have also asked for more job centre services to be provided as the nearest job centre is in Bulwell.
Coun John Wilmott (Ash Ind), who represents Hucknall North, raised the idea at the last full meeting of the council.
He said: “Our job centre on Hucknall High Street closed many years ago.
"The latest child poverty figures back up my call to diversify and improve services at our library.
"As well as providing a regular police drop-in centre, it (the library) could also provide more opportunities for Hucknall residents to re-study to improve their employment chances.
"The fact that Hucknall residents have to travel to Bulwell to access Job Centre Plus services is, in my opinion, wrong.
"I am pleased that Inspire who run library services on behalf of the council are considering my ideas.”
The child poverty figures have been described as ‘deeply concerning’ by Coun Samantha Deakin (Ash Ind), spokesperson for children and young people’s issues for the Independent group at County Hall.
She said, “These figures highlight the dramatic increase in child poverty since the start of the pandemic.
"The fact that 1057 more children are claiming free school meals in Hucknall and across Ashfield is deeply concerning.
"The fact that nearly half of free school meal claimants are from north Nottinghamshire shows the inequalities that continue to exist in our county.
"These figures are exacerbated by the rise in fuel poverty across the country. and action is needed now.”
The increase across all areas of Nottinghamshire follows a campaign by England footballer Marcus Rashford to extend free school meal vouchers into the school holidays.
Coun Lee Waters (Ash Ind), who represents Hucknall South, said, “Child poverty levels are at the highest for a generation and areas like Hucknall Central suffer from rising hunger.
"We have done a lot of work to break the stigma attached to claiming free school meals.
"In this day and age, no child should go hungry.
"The Government talks about levelling up the country – we can’t even level up our county.
"I fully back the call to use assets like Hucknall Library to improve access to training and to access job centre services since the Government closed our centre in Hucknall.”