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By Ian Dipple Friday 31 January 2014 Updated: 31/01 10:02
A CONSERVATIVE county councillor has been challenged to meet struggling families in Redditch after claiming there is no poverty crisis within Worcestershire despite a surge in demand for emergency food.
Coun John Campion, responsible for transformation and commissioning on Worcestershire County Council, made the comments during a debate on what support the authority could give to the growing number of food banks across the county and those who rely on them.
The idea was put forward by the Labour group who suggested the council should investigate the need to provide advice and a co-ordinated response to what they called ‘this growing crisis of poverty’.
But although the idea to investigate ways the council could help was approved Coun Campion said: “I don’t agree there is a crisis within this county of poverty.
“We are seeing the economy growing, we are seeing more people in work and we are seeing the economy recover - those are the facts.”
He later repeated his comments during a spat with Redditch county councillor Joe Baker on social network site Twitter.
Coun Campion wrote: “Socialists in Worcestershire talk about a poverty crisis in the county? Where is the evidence to back it up?”
He later added: “Poverty is every modern economy .... Where is the crisis? I agree anyone in poverty is one too many, but it isn’t a crisis.”
Coun Baker told the Standard Coun Campion needed to ‘step out of his glass bubble’.
“I want him to come and walk with me around my wards and meet some of the families that are struggling and explain to them there’s no crisis.”
Redditch Food Bank was founded in September last year as churches and charities previously feeding those going hungry were unable to cope after demand soared by 297 per cent.
So far 422 adults and 145 children have been given 6.4 tons of food by the food bank and it is expected current demand will continue meaning around 1,500 people will need the service over the next 12 months.
Of those who accessed the food bank 96 people did so because of benefit changes, 136 because of benefit delays and 175 because of low income.
Rev Robin Baker, chairman of Redditch Food Bank, said: “It would seem apparent to anyone who sees these figures Redditch certainly does have a food bank crisis.
“I would encourage John Campion to look at the accurately recorded Redditch figures and the national figures for himself and would welcome the opportunity to meet with him and his colleagues to discuss this further.”
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