My speech to Council can be viewed here.
Last week 27 Anglican bishops – including the Bishop of Leicester and 16 other clergy – attacked David Cameron and his Tory-led government for creating a national crisis of hunger and hardship.
Since the current Tory / Lib Dem government came to power the use of food banks according to the Trussell Trust has increased by some 700%.
I’m sad to say this isn’t some abstract problem affecting other people somewhere else: it’s affecting people here in our city here today and the situation is getting worse.
In Beaumont Leys we now have a foodbank run by volunteers. It was set-up in October last year and evolved out of a lunch club at the local church.
I recently spoke with Katie Wray, one of the people leading the project. She told me that although it was slow to start, word had spread quickly, and now they’re busier than ever.
A lot of the people approaching the foodbank for help are in part-time or low paid work. Many others lost their jobs after the busy Christmas period, and they’ve been experiencing delays in getting access to the benefits, which they themselves have paid in to.
I’m saddened and ashamed to report to Council tonight that there are mums going without food in Beaumont Leys, so that their children have things they need for school, and are not bullied by other kids for being poor.
I know of one lady in her 30s who recently split from her partner and is caring for 2 children. In one week she didn’t eat anything besides bread because she had to save £25 for her son to go on a school trip. When this lady was explaining her circumstances she felt so embarrassed that she burst out crying.
But the scale of the problem is much worse and these Tory cuts and the government’s cost of living crisis is affecting many of my constituents in Beaumont Leys.
There’s another woman living on Scalpay Close in my ward, who recently didn’t have £2 for the electric meter to heat up the food for her children, for when they came back from school.
There’s a family living in Home Farm who are struggling to find around £300 to pay Council tax for the first time and they cannot get any financial support.
And there are children attending youth sessions at the Beaumont Lodge Neighbourhood Association, who seemingly haven’t had enough to eat, with local volunteers telling me that they seriously doubt whether some of the children have had lunch on any given day.
The difference between being a political activist, and being an elected Councillor, is that I now actually get to meet the many people in my ward who are struggling to survive, and I get to see for myself the impact that Conservative Party policies are having on real people.
Although we are a Labour-controlled City Council the sad reality is that our hands are tied, because it’s the Tories and Liberals who control two-thirds of the money that we get, and they are the ones inflicting these cuts on the people of Leicester. They are the ones who are favouring tax breaks for millionaires and for big business, as people go hungry. And they ultimately are the ones who we – the people of Leicester – must work hard to defeat, at next year’s General Election.