Leeds MP Richard Burgon says city's food bank use 'shames' Government

Richard Burgon MP.
Richard Burgon MP.

Leeds MPs have called on policy-makers to address the underlying issues which have led to a “shameful” rise in demand for food banks in the city.

As part of its Feed A Family campaign, the YEP last week reported how there had been an estimated 25 to 30 per cent rise in use of Leeds South and East Foodbank’s distribution centres during a period in which children miss out on free school dinners over the summer.

Read more: Leeds food banks in 'crisis' as summer demand soars
There has also been a steady rise in the 12 centres’ use from 1,216 clients in 2013/4 to more than 9,000 between April 2017 and March this year.

Richard Burgon, Labour MP for Leeds East, said the statistics “shame” the Government, whose “cruel and unnecessary” cuts, he said, have caused the rise in the use of foodbanks.

“The fact that foodbanks are necessary at all in one of the richest countries in the world is absolutely shameful,” he said.

“But the use of food banks is becoming more and more prevalent in our communities.

“People who volunteer in foodbanks and donate to them are inspiring.

Read more: Food banks in Leeds give out more help than before
“They are wonderful people who are giving up their own time and effort to try to put a much needed sticking plaster over the impact of austerity in our communities. But we need to be clear that there is nothing inevitable about the need for food banks.”

Mr Burgon called for an end to austerity economics and cuts to public spending by the Government, as well as “insecure and low paid” employment, combined with unaffordable housing, “sky high” private rent and insufficient numbers of council homes.

Hilary Benn, Labour MP for Leeds Central, also said food bank demand was the result of benefit cuts and sanctions, in-work poverty and family crises.

He said: “Our food banks do a vital job in helping people and families in need, but this will carry on until we tackle the underlying problems of low wages and the way the benefit system works.”

Last year, the number of three-day emergency supplies given out by anti-poverty charity the Trussell Trusts’s food banks across Yorkshire and the Humber in July and August was 12,710. Of those, 4,632 went to children.

A Government spokesperson said reasons for food bank use are “complex and overlapping”.

The spokesperson told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “This Government spends £90bn in working age benefits, which provides a strong safety net for those who need it most.

“We’ve cut income tax for 31 million working people, so they can keep more of what they earn.

“Household incomes have never been higher, and there are one million fewer people living in absolute poverty compared with 2010, including 300,000 children.”