17:40 Monday 30 December 2013

Councillor's bid to look behind the headlines at food banks

Written byLAURA HAMMOND

A COMMUNITY leader in Burton has launched his own investigation into food banks in the town, in an attempt to dispel the myths which surround them.

Councillor Conor Wileman, who represents Tower division for Staffordshire County Council, is planning to work with the YMCA and Salvation Army to find out more about the situations which have driven people to use the services provided by food banks.

He is hoping to compile his findings to help the county council to provide the right sort of support for the organisations which run the services.

Councillor Wileman told the Mail: “There have been many reports of increased food bank usage and it would be beneficial to find out locally what the reasons are behind this. Is it low wages; sanctions; delays in benefits?

“I believe it is important that residents know the extent of the problem and why food banks are needed.”

The rise in the number of people seeking help from food banks has been well-documented, both locally and nationally, with a recent controversial Parliament debate causing ructions within the Government over the issues.

However, Conservative Councillor Wileman said he wanted his investigation was not motivated by politics.

“It would be good to see an apolitical viewpoint on the subject rather than using it as a political football,” he added.

He said he was planning to volunteer with the organisations for some time in January to gain a general overview of the situation.

Figures show the amount of people accessing food banks in Burton is at a record level, with almost 200 parcels handed out by the YMCA, Salvation Army and Burton Soup Kitchen last month.

Those who run the facilities believe this is a rise of around 75 per cent.

Paul Laffey, chief executive of Burton’s YMCA, said: “We have seen the figures gradually increase this year and because it’s coming close to Christmas and people are finding it a struggle financially.”

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