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Labour candidate sparks debate on food banks and society

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Labour's parliamentary candidate for Twickenham Nick Grant has again written to the Richmond & Twickenham Times to express his concerns about the growing need for the last resort support provided by food banks.

Nick’s letter can be read in full below:

Dear Sir,

Rarely can your Letters Page have seen such complacency as that distilled in Councillor Salvoni’s correspondence on the subject of food banks (“Food banks around for a while”, 10th January).

When I first sought to open up a debate on the growth of food banks in my letter to you of 14th November 2013, I wrote of the urgent need for all in society to stop and think about their recent exponential growth. I worried that we were, as a community and a nation, beginning to accustom ourselves to their existence and, by implication, to the social inequity that spawns them. It seems that I was right to be worried.

Councillor Salvoni’s view that the first opened a few years ago, that there aren’t in any case all that many “over indebted” people in Richmond upon Thames and that any food banks in the borough are generously provided “for everybody” misses the bigger picture by a startlingly wide margin. Her all too neat distinction between the efficient local arrangements for food banks on the one hand and the national political issues that must ultimately determine their role in our society on the other, encourages in my view a dangerous disconnection in policy.

Let’s be clear. The present surge in demand for food banks is caused by the coalition government’s austerity programme, the consequences of which are most acutely, disproportionately and unfairly borne by the most vulnerable members of our society. The root causes, including energy prices, water affordability, zero hour employment contracts, low wages, the bedroom tax and pay day lending, must be tackled if we are ever to see the number of people using food banks reduce.

I understand that the Salvation Army will shortly be opening a new food bank on May Road. An emergency appeal for donations was sent out before Christmas. Once again I find myself reacting with a combination of thankfulness – that someone is ready and willing to help the most distressed members of our community – and anger - that one of the richest nations in the world can tolerate the appearance of yet one more telling sign of the widening fracture in our society.

Yours,

Nick Grant

Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate for Twickenham

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