A new Tory MP accused of cashing in on foodbanks through her app has insisted the service costs her more than she has ever been able to reclaim.
Miriam Cates, who won the seat of Penistone and Stocksbridge in South Yorkshire on Thursday, was criticised over the weekend for an app she runs called Foodbank, which lets centres highlight the food and essential items they need.
But it comes with a £180 charge to register and subscribe.
Her defeated Labour opponent Francyne Johnson said: “This revelation is deeply worrying, especially when you consider how the use of food banks has increased massively due to Conservative party policies.”
But Mrs Cates, who set up the app with husband Dave six years ago initially for the S6 Foodbank in Sheffield, said: “We developed the app for free, using our time, resources, staff and money and did not charge S6 Foodbank for its use. The commercial cost of an app like this would be tens of thousands of pounds – we developed it for free.”
Mrs Cates said due to the success of the app, other foodbanks approached her and they put a JustGiving page into the app to allow donations to foodbanks.
She said: “As a small business we did not have the resources to continue to develop the app for free so we had to charge foodbanks a small set up charge to allow us to continue to support and update the app.
“However this fee works out at less than the monthly cost of a JustGiving subscription – something that the Foodbanks get for free using our app. Foodbanks also saw their financial donations increase directly as a result of the app.
“This app cost us – and continues to cost us – thousands of pounds to develop and support, far more than we will ever reclaim. We created it because we saw a need and wanted to help.
“It is very disappointing – but sadly not surprising – that it appears Momentum and the Labour Party want to attack and try to smear a small business for using our time, talent and resources to help a charity. It is sad that instead of recognising the good that this app has done, and how much it has cost us to produce, my opponents want to twist this good news story into something that they think will give them political advantage.”
There are more than 2,000 foodbanks in the UK and the Trussell Trust - who runs the vast majority of them - gave out 1.6m packs of food supplies last year. This is the most ever and has risen by 73 per cent over the past five years.
Foodbanks which join the Trussell Trust network must pay £1,500 in a joining fee, then £360 a year on top of that.