Labour politicians across Stevenage and North Herts have criticised the government after new figures revealed that more than 10,000 children are living in poverty in the area.

Constituency-level research by the End Child Poverty Coalition and the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University found that in 2021/22, 5,485 children in Stevenage, 4,029 children in North East Herts and 3,161 children in Hitchin and Harpenden were living in relative poverty.

That means that 24 per cent, 18 per cent and 12 per cent of children respectively are living in relative poverty in those constituencies.

Kevin Bonavia, Labour's parliamentary candidate for Stevenage, described the figures as “frankly shameful and so unnecessary in one of the world’s richest countries”, while Elizabeth Dennis, Labour leader of North Herts Council, said they were "devastating statistics - they are real lives held back before they have even begun".

Compared to 2020/21, each constituency has seen a small decline in the percentage of children classed as living in relative poverty.

The report, published this month, combines data published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) with information on rental costs in local areas to find the percentage of children living in households with below 60 per cent of median income after housing costs are accounted for.

The original DWP figures estimate the percentage of children living in households with below 60 per cent of media income before housing costs are taken into account.

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According to the End Child Poverty report, this means they underestimate poverty rates in areas like London and the South East of England, where housing costs are higher than elsewhere in the country.

The DWP figures estimates that in 2021/22, 2,891 children in Stevenage, 1,981 children in North East Herts, and 1,437 children in Hitchin and Harpenden were living in relative poverty. That equates to 14 per cent, 10 per cent, and six per cent of children respectively in each constituency.

Mr Bonavia added: "The last Labour government had set a legally binding target of abolishing child poverty across the UK by 2020, but in 2015 the Conservatives abolished it and poverty rates have since shot up. 

"The Conservatives have broken the economy and their only answer is tax breaks for the wealthiest 1 per cent of the population.

"We need a new Labour government with the right priorities, in this case helping businesses to grow and create decent well-paid jobs, and so give every family the income they need to provide for their kids."

Cllr Alistair Willoughby, chair of North East Herts Labour, said: “The Conservatives crashed the economy – pushing mortgages and rents through the roof – and it’s no surprise that child poverty figures are so high as the cost of living crisis deepens."

“Families in North East Hertfordshire need a government with a plan. Labour would build a better Britain by making high growth a driving mission of the next government with good jobs and productivity rising in every part of our country.”

Sir Oliver Heald, the Conservative MP for North East Hertfordshire, said: "Although this measure of child poverty is currently falling, there is no cause for complacency as inflation is eroding the value of money and we all understand what this means for families.

"This is why it is so important to bear down on inflation and ensure we get it out of the system.

"I agree that growing the economy is key and that is why the prime minister has been in Washington drumming up business for Britain.

"This is working - with the growth forecasts of the OECD upgrading the prospects of UK growth for a second time this month.

"Whilst Labour talks about growth without explaining how they would do it, the government is getting on with achieving it."