There is a lot of understandable political controversy around Food Banks. I don’t think it’s right that in one of the world’s richest countries so many people, including many working people, are reliant on these charities. It just shows how the UK Government’s agenda of cut-backs with its flawed system of Universal Credit has failed.
Every year, my staff team and I help around 800-1,000 local people, businesses and community groups. In May, I’ll have been an MP for nine years so I have had the privilege of helping a lot of different people. I know from my surgeries, phone calls, meetings and emails that there are many people in our area who work really hard for themselves and their families but are failed by a system that doesn’t work as well as it should. I am angry that some of these people should have to rely on Food Banks.
That said, I have always been very supportive of the work of our local Food Bank and have nothing but praise for the volunteers who give long hours to support its work. I am also grateful to many of our local supermarkets and other stores which run community collections to support the great work of the Food Bank and other local charities.
Like many of you, I like to support local collections for the Food Bank and other good causes when I do my shopping in Tesco Cefn Mawr. I also shop regularly at the Rhos Co-op and the Johnstown Co-op and make sure my Co-op card is registered to support local community groups.
In the run-up to Christmas, I joined Food Bank volunteers and Tesco Cefn Mawr staff who were running a big collection for the Foodbank. I also joined a Tesco national staff member in visiting the Wrexham Foodbank afterwards.
In November, I spent a day holding meetings with managers at Tesco HQ discussing their policies on community involvement and corporate social responsibility. One point I raised with them is that while most supermarkets provide substantial additional funding on top of the food and other donations their customers make, there’s no corresponding support from the Government.
Many of you who give money to charities will know about Gift Aid – a system that means money donations to charities made by taxpayers are topped up by the Treasury. This is a really important source of income for charities large and small. However, there’s no equivalent for the food, sanitary item and blue token gifts that many people make at our supermarkets. That doesn’t make any sense. As Co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Charities and Volunteering, I want to work with local and national charities, supermarkets and other stores to try and get the Government to review this. I think it’s only fair that the Government do their bit too.