ANGRY councillors say vulnerable children in Inverclyde are missing out on free school meals and uniform grants due to 'outrageous' red tape.

They have blasted HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for refusing to allow information collected for council tax purposes to be used to help tackle child poverty.

Members of the local authority's influential policy and resources committee have now called for the council to launch legal action over the issue during a Municipal Buildings meeting on Tuesday.

Labour councillor Jim Clocherty asked whether the council could take HMRC to court over the issue.

He said: "Is there any basis in law to take a court action to pursue this further?

"Is it worth challenging that in court?"

Gerard Malone, the head of legal and property services, advised against this course of action.

He said: "I would say that it's more worthwhile going down the persuasive route rather than any legal action.

"I can't think of any other suitable legal remedy."

The row centres on data provided to the council by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to administer Council Tax Reduction – a benefit to help poorer families pay their council tax bill.

Inverclyde Council wants its finance department to be able to share this information with education services officials, who have responsibility for free school meals and uniform grants.

This would allow the local authority to automatically ensure eligible children get the help they are entitled to, without the need for applications.

The council says the DWP has 'indicated agreement verbally' to the reuse of data but official HMRC agreement is needed.

SNP councillor Chris McEleny described the deadlock as a 'diabolical situation' and took aim at Conservative counterpart David Wilson on the issue.

He said: "It's utterly outrageous as effectively you've got a UK policy decision not to allow the council to access data that would help people get access to free school meals and clothing grants.

"Inverclyde has got a council that is working collegiately together, as 333 more children are now entitled to free schools meals and 464 more are entitled to school clothing grants, but the status quo is this ridiculous policy from Councillor Wilson's Tory government."

But Mr Wilson defended the government's welfare policy.

He said: "The Scottish Government have been given enough powers to make changes to social security but they have not chosen to do it.

"They have blamed Westminster for everything - it's the usual blame game."

Council leader Stephen McCabe said the issue has been discussed at a recent meeting of Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).

He said: "The decision by HMRC is extremely disappointing.

"Red tape is getting in the way.

"It's an appalling position."

The council say they will work with COSLA and the Scottish Government in an attempt to change the HMRC policy and the committee will receive an update in the new year.