A WINSFORD councillor is leading calls for a ‘poverty emergency’ to be declared in the wake of the pandemic.

Cheshire West and Chester Council was one of many authorities to declare a climate emergency last May, putting measures to tackle climate change at the top of the agenda.

But the council could become the first in the country to do the same for poverty, after Covid-19 has devastated the economy.

CWAC’s cabinet will consider the move next Wednesday, following a request made last month by Cllr Mandy Clare, Labour member for Dene and the council’s poverty and inequality champion.

She said: “I can’t easily tell you the dire level of straits that so many of our residents are in.

“Sick pay is very low, furlough for people who are on very low incomes to begin with is inadequate to cover their living costs, a lot of people don’t have savings and are not able to save, jobs are being lost.

“Organisers that are working directly with the community tell me that they are seeing increasing numbers of people with no food who were not previously in financial difficulty.

“For those who were previously in difficulty, we know that it has got a lot worse.”

It comes as the number of people across the borough claiming unemployment benefits has more than doubled since lockdown began.

Office for National Statistics data shows that across Cheshire West, 11,675 people were claiming out-of-work benefits as of May 14 compared to 5,380 in early March.

It means 5.7 per cent of the borough’s population has now signed on, compared to 2.6 per cent before lockdown.

Meanwhile, demand at Mid Cheshire Foodbank continues to be far higher than the usual levels before coronavirus.

The foodbank has previously told the Guardian it is expecting another rise in demand if companies lay off workers when Government grants come to an end.

Nathan Pardoe, from Mid Cheshire Foodbank, said: “The worry is that we will start to see a massive spike because people will be facing new pressures that they have not had.

“We are expecting more demand. It is the calm before the storm. The economic impact of coronavirus is enormous.”

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Cabinet will decide whether to recommend a poverty emergency at the next full council meeting.

A poverty advisory board would be set up including Cllr Clare, representatives from bodies such as Weaver Vale Housing Trust and Citizens Advice, and residents with experience of poverty.