Council will not give taxpayers’ money to food banks

Churches from across Leyland recently combined forces for the Fare Share food bank collection at the town's Tesco Extra store
Churches from across Leyland recently combined forces for the Fare Share food bank collection at the town's Tesco Extra store
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South Ribble Council will not financially support Leyland’s food bank - because the system is not properly regulated.

During a heated debate at a full council meeting this week, Labour councillors asked the ruling Conservative party to throw their weight behind Leyland and Penwortham’s food banks.

Coun Matthew Tomlinson, leader of the Labour group, said: “When I was elected to this council I never envisaged a time when significant numbers of South Ribble residents would find themselves in such desperate straits that they would need the very immediate level of support provided by a food bank.

“The voluntary sector is doing a wonderful job here in South Ribble, but they cannot do it alone. They need help, and the need is dire.

“A recent scrutiny meeting here at South Ribble heard that this council had £14 million in the bank, whilst some of our residents can’t put food on the table.

“The Labour group would urge the Conservatives to show some leadership on this issue.

“Commit, now, to offering financial support to people who are struggling with the most basic of needs; the need to eat.”

Labour’s Jane Bell, chair of the Leyland My Neighbourhood Forum, said: “None of us know what the future holds - we could be made redundant, have a serious accident, a loved one dies, we ourselves or a member of our family could become very ill or disabled.

“We would then need a whole range of support.

“We cannot blame people for being poor.”

She added: “We must do whatever we can to enable the residents of South Ribble to have a better quality of life.

“One way to show we care is by supporting the local food banks financially.”

But other members of the council argued that ploughing money into the system will not solve the problem.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Coun David Howarth, said: “The food is freely given, the food bank was not set up by the council and it’s at the discretion of the volunteers over who gets food parcels.

“If we start bringing taxpayers’ money into it, people will demand strict controls on this.

“It wouldn’t be ok to say ‘well maybe some people are abusing the system, but most people really do need it’.

“We should instead be pointing them in the direction of financial support.”

Tory councillor, Andrea Ball, added: “I would like to see us support the charities which help families with things like making a budget, and making low-cost meals, rather than just throwing money at the food banks.

“I recently asked these charities what they think about food banks, and they said they know of young people who go to a number of food banks to avoid paying for food, and then spend their money on socialising.

“I would rather support the education of our residents rather than throwing money at a problem, which doesn’t always solve it.”

The motion put forward by the Labour group also included a proposal to call for the abolition of the ‘Bedroom Tax’, which Conservative members said they couldn’t support.