An MP has dismissed a council report which shows a third of children in Southend are living in poverty as “offensive”.

Southend Council’s Housing, Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy revealed latest figures showed child poverty in the borough has increased from 19 per cent to 29 per cent.

The strategy says more than a third of newly arising households are unable to afford the cheapest private sector rented property without spending in excess of a third of their income on rent.

The rising levels of “material child poverty” were noted after housing costs are taken into account.

James Duddridge, Conservative MP for Rochford and Southend East angrily dismissed the figures.

He said: “I have seen poverty around the world. A billion people living in the third world living on less than a pound a day. Whole communities that have no jobs and no access to water. I have held babies that are half the size they should be that are prescribed emergency medicine to try to stabilise them. I have seen people on camps little more than a bag of bones. To compare that type of poverty to the real issues in Southend is nothing short of offensive and misleading.

“By definition any measure that is relative, will include people that are not within the measure – that is the nature of relative measures. We should be more careful how we use these words.”

The council strategy will look at how to provide more homes that are truly affordable for those on the lowest incomes.

The report said: “Many more people who want to own homes simply cannot afford to do so and we are therefore committed to meeting the government’s target of the delivery of 11,140 new dwellings being provided between 2016 & 2026.

“Local research indicates that of these, 6,875 properties (62%) would need to be provided at less than lower quartile market rent to meet the needs of current/future households not currently able to afford lower quartile rental prices. Southend’s average annual delivery of all homes (including affordable) is just 340 properties per year.”

Labour activist Mike Fieldhouse said: “It is disgraceful that in the 5th richest economy in the world that we find such horrific levels of child poverty right on our doorstep, here in Southend.

“What is equally as bad is Southend Council’s response and failure to tackle these issues in any meaningful way.

"We have recently seen the proposed regulation of private landlords in the borough rejected by this Conservative administration, many of whom are themselves landlords and voted down the proposals that would have ensured minimum standards of accommodation, rights and safety for private tenants.”

A child is said to live in poverty if they are in a family living on less than 60 per cent of median household income. According to the latest official statistics 60 per cent of median income is about £248 per week.

To find the relevant poverty line for a particular household type, this then needs to be adjusted to take account of household size. For a couple with two children under 14 this means multiplying by 1.4 – giving a poverty line of £347 per week.