WINCHESTER civic chiefs are taking first steps towards tackling poverty and inequality in their district.

The Cabinet agreed to set up a working party to consider the issue in ‘wealthy Winchester.’ It follows a Notice of Motion proposed by Labour councillor Janet Berry in April.

The Cabinet heard that unitary councils and some London boroughs had set up Fairness Commissions to tackle the inequality gap.

The idea has cross-party support. Tory councillor Stephen Godfrey, portfolio holder for finance, said that although average wages were high in Winchester median wages were around half the national average.

A Cabinet report said the problem is not on the scale as in places such as London but it is significant, with some 1,800 children said to be living in poverty, about nine per cent of children, or 1.5 per cent of the whole population. Parts of Stanmore and Winnall are in the poorest 25 per cent in England and Wales.

Cllr Ian Tait said: “We have some serious issues. If you earn enough you can buy a house. If you don’t have enough money you won’t be able to buy or rent and that is not good. We must not become exclusive. We as a city must be inclusive.”

Lib Dem Anne Weir said: “We need to support equality of opportunity amongst those who live here.”

Cllr Berry said: “Whilst Winchester has recently been voted one of the top ten places to live, this is not the experience of many living here. Inequality is marked. It’s seen in the house prices that many local people can’t afford to pay.”