Britain 'to miss child poverty targets'

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Gordon Brown is in danger of missing targets to cut poverty, according to reports by researchers and a Labour-dominated committee of MPs.

Members of the Commons Treasury Committee warned that the Government risked failing to achieve its goal of halving child poverty by the end of a decade, while a study into poverty funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said the Government's attempts to cut the numbers of families and children in poverty had stalled.

The study by the New Policy Institute think tank showed that child poverty in 2005-06 was half a million over the target set for 2004-05.

Researchers warned that poverty levels had risen during 2005-06, the latest year for which figures are available, and was no better than that recorded in 1988.

They also cast doubt on Mr Brown's policy of tax credits, a central plank of Labour's efforts to cut poverty, warning that more than half of the children facing poverty were in families where at least one parent was in work the same rate as a decade ago.

One of the report's authors, Peter Kenway, said: "The Government's anti-poverty policy is exhausted. The evidence is quite clear that they did get some of the way towards what they wanted to do and they did reduce child poverty but there is a sense that they have run out of steam.

"There was nothing in the pre-Budget report or the Queen's Speech that showed they were going to approach this with renewed vigour."

Mr Kenway warned that families faced large tax bills, highlighting the impact of council tax, which is paid by households with nearly half the children in poverty.

A report by the Treasury Select Committee warned that the Comprehensive Spending Review "fails to provide clear route map" for meeting the child poverty target.

John McFall, the committee's Labour chairman and a long-standing ally of Mr Brown, said the Government's promise to halve child poverty by 2010 "should not be seen as an optional extra".