Councillors reject calls for £70,000 boost to food banks

C141074-2 Chi Foodbank  phot kate''Carol Morrison and Joanna Kondabeka making up a food parcel.Picture by Kate Shemilt.C141074-2 SUS-140212-091729001
C141074-2 Chi Foodbank phot kate''Carol Morrison and Joanna Kondabeka making up a food parcel.Picture by Kate Shemilt.C141074-2 SUS-140212-091729001

PEOPLE needing food banks should be educated about the ‘financial consequences of lifestyle choices’ according to one county councillor.

Conservative Peter Metcalfe made the comments during a debate at a West Sussex County Council meeting on Friday.

The debate started when Labour councillor Michael Jones put forward a motion asking members to commit £70,000 towards helping the county’s food banks.

“It’s not a nice thing to have a food bank open,” said Mr Jones.

“If a food bank has to open in your area, it’s because it’s fulfilling a need.

“I am aware some people have stated nationally that food banks aren’t necessary and people are not spending their money wisely enough, but in most cases there is nothing more demoralising for a human being, in otherwise good health, than coming forward for help feeding themselves.”

He said projects will soon struggle following the government’s decision to withdraw Local Assistance Network funding, which has enabled the council to give £33,000 to food banks in the past year.

“If the council doesn’t have the money for this, I have to ask, who will,” asked Mr Jones, who later accused some members of being ‘scrooges’.

However, cabinet member for finance Michael Brown called the idea ‘financially reckless’ at a time when the council had to find millions of pounds of efficiency savings.

“Mr Jones basks in the luxury of opposition,” he said.

“He is free to make claims and spending commitments that he knows he will not be able to honour. I would like to ask him, since there is no £70,000 sitting around waiting to be spent, which library’s budget would he cut, which children and family centre would he close, which bus service subsidy would he axe because they are the implications of his motion.”

He added: “I urge members to vote against this financially reckless motion.”

The ensuing debate revealed political divides in the chamber.

Labour’s Sue Mullins said: “It’s not luxury goods. It’s Smart Price pasta and toilet rolls. Imagine not being able to buy toilet rolls.”

James Walsh, leader of the Liberal Democrat group agreed.

“It’s for people in desperate need and in desperate situations, often with children to feed,” he said. “It’s a drop in the ocean out of a billion pound budget. £70,000 could be found and it’s nonsense to pretend otherwise.”

However, Cllr Metcalfe said: “It does not address the real issue of getting people back into work, nor does it offer any support for education and how to manage money.

“We need to educate people from an early age and support parents through our Think Family project and we need to educate people of the financial consequences of personal and lifestyle choices.”

The motion was lost with 38 against to 17 in favour.

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