POVERTY levels have risen in some areas of West Dunbartonshire, according to a new report.

The area is one of four local authorities in Scotland to see increases in the number of people living in deprivation since 2012.

According to the report from The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), West Dunbartonshire, along with Midlothian, North Ayrshire and South Ayrshire have the largest increases in people living below the breadline.

A map of the most deprived areas in West Dunbartonshire has shown up a number of 'hotspots' where it's at its worst.

Hotspots include the Dalreoch, Castlehill, Bellsmyre, Renton and Bonhill areas, as well as parts of Balloch and Haldane.

In some areas deprivation has risen around five per cent.

The survey also paints a bleak picture on not just those who are unemployed and struggling financially, it's equally gloomy when it comes to housing, people's education prospects, health, and access to services.

Clair Coyle, one of the Trustees at the West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare, laid bare the deprivation problems many people in the area are facing.

She listed benefits sanctions, the introduction of monthly Universal Credit payments, a rise in utility bills and an increase in homelessness, as primary reasons why people locally are turning to them.

She said: "We are steadily supporting more and more people each week. People are also presenting with more complex issues than what we have seen before, mainly issues in relation to benefits.

"Lately we have had more pensioners coming along and a massive increase in the amount of people telling us they are homeless."

Scottish Socialist Party member and West Dunbartonshire Councillor Jim Bollan, who represents Ward 2, which covers some of Renton through to Alexandria, said: "The increase in poverty and deprivation in swathes of West Dunbartonshire comes as no surprise.

"Foodbanks are a clear indication as to how poverty is rising fast in West Dunbartonshire.

"Many of my constituents in New Bonhill and Bellsmyre are the working poor and those on low state benefits and these cuts from the Tories and the Labour Council have affected them disproportionately."

SNP MP for West Dunbartonshire Martin Docherty-Hughes said West Dunbartonshire finds itself in an "unenviable position" in the wake of the report.

He said: "We have seen the largest increase in deprivation since 2012 of any Scottish Local Authority area, meaning that many more of my constituents find themselves in poverty.

"West Dunbartonshire, Midlothian and North Ayrshire have seen the largest increase in deprivation share across Scotland; this is cast iron proof that the UK Government’s policies are hurting those most vulnerable the most."

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour MSP for Dumbarton and the Vales, blamed the rise in deprivation on cuts to council funding.

She explained: "West Dunbartonshire Council’s budget has been cut by the SNP Government in Edinburgh every single year since the last figures were produced in 2012.

"You can’t keep cutting local budgets which are used to create jobs and pay for our schools and act surprised when the result is even more poverty.

"The figures show that there are no areas in Dumbarton and the Vale in the top 100 most deprived areas in Scotland but there is no doubt about the staggering inequalities that exist on our doorstep."

A spokesperson for West Dunbartonshire Council said that a number of measures are in place to help tackle deprived areas locally, as well as programmes aimed improving the life chances of residents.

The spokesperson said: "We are working with our partners to reduce the impact of poverty and improve the lives of those most affected by deprivation.

"This includes helping residents to secure employment and access training, providing benefit and debt management advice, reducing the attainment gap for our young people and supporting families.

"It’s pleasing to see the latest statistics show there have been significant year on year improvements in employment rate figures in West Dunbartonshire."

Cllr Bollan maintained, however, that austerity cuts at local and UK level have contributed to an "alarming" level of poverty.

He stated: "After years of cuts in wages, benefits, and sanctioning thousands of unemployed claimants by a Tory Government, coupled with attacks from a Labour Council who have means tested residential care for the elderly, cut back on homecare services for the elderly and disabled, increased the cost of school dinners while cutting back the choices and quantity available to primary school children, employing over 600 workers under slave labour conditions on exploitative insecure Zero Hour Contracts and using over 700 volunteers to do work previously done in the main by paid Council workers- along with forcing Council Housing applicants into the high rented private sector- is it any wonder poverty has increased by 5% in four years to alarming levels."

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) publication, released last week, ranks almost 7000 small areas covering all of Scotland from most-to least-deprived.

And its release has illustrated the "significant long-term challenge" of tackling deprivation, according to Communities Secretary Angela Constance.

She said: "The SIMD is important – and widely used in both the public and third sectors – because it clearly sets out where the most deprived areas in Scotland are, so we can ensure public funding, policies and services can be targeted most effectively.

"While changes in methodology mean it’s not possible to compare directly with previous years, SIMD is always a good reminder of why Scotland needs a government committed to tackling deep seated deprivation, poverty and inequalities."

A West Dunbartonshire Council spokesperson added: "We will use the data within the SIMD16 publication to target support where it is needed most and also to inform future decision making as we continue our efforts to tackle poverty and deprivation in West Dunbartonshire."

West Dunbartonshire residents can now find out the rate of deprivation in their local area by using their own postcode.

To find out more go to http://simd.scot/2016/#/simd2016/BTTTFTT/11/-4.7646/56.0138/