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Union hits out at councillor’s food bank review

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: January 04, 2014

25/10/13 Foodbank pic Reconnect - Food Bank

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UNION bosses have hit back at a Burton councillor who has announced his intention to conduct an investigation into the use of food banks.

Representatives of the town’s branch of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union accused Staffordshire County Councillor Conor Wileman of being naive in his intention to uncover the myths behind the rise in the number of people accessing food banks.

Branch chairman Paul Walker said the move showed the councillor was out of touch with people living in the area.

He added: “It is obvious he is not aware of the situation many people are facing.

“Nationwide, 500,000 people are currently relying on food banks. It is not a lifestyle choice, it is down to the fact that people cannot make ends meet in the 7th richest economy in the world.

“Low wages, unemployment, the biggest living standards crisis since the 1870s and zero-hour contracts are all contributory factors as to why people turn to food banks.”

Councillor Wileman told the Mail he wanted to carry out an apolitical review of the reasons which have led to the increase in food bank usage, but Mr Walker refuted his claims, saying his ideas were ‘clearly politically motivated’.

He blamed Government welfare reforms for plunging people into food poverty.

These overhauls, which included the so-called bedroom tax and changes to council tax benefit, have also seen more people heading in the area seeking help from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

In Burton alone, the amount of people accessing food banks has roughly doubled in the last 12 months, with some reports of children going hungry.

Councillor Wileman said: “I believe it is important that residents know the extent of the problem and why food banks are needed

Food parcels are provided by the YMCA, the Salvation Army and Burton Soup Kitchen in Burton, and the CVS in Swadlincote.

The union’s criticism was levelled alongside calls for Burton MP Andrew Griffiths to speak out over the crisis, after he did not take part in a vote on the issue in Parliament.

The Mail contacted Mr Griffiths to quiz him about this, but he had not responded when the paper went to press.

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