Councillor in food bank attack

Ripon's Bread of Life food bank volunteers collect food from shoppers in Booths.
Ripon's Bread of Life food bank volunteers collect food from shoppers in Booths.

A Ripon city councillor has sparked a row over funding for the city’s food bank by saying there is no real poverty in Britain anymore.

Coun David Todd said at a Ripon City Council finances and general purposes meeting yesterday (Monday) that Ripon’s Bread of Life food bank should not receive a grant from the council because “there is no need for it in this day and age”.

During a discussion at the meeting about grant requests for this financial year, Coun Todd said: “I don’t want people spending the money on fags and booze.”

He added: “My view is that they shouldn’t get anything.”

Speaking to Gazette today (Tuesday) Coun Todd defended his comments, saying: “I don’t think people are poor enough to need soup kitchens. Money is tight and we are on a very restricted budget.Worthwhile organisations such as St Michael’s Hospice didn’t get any money from us.”

Talking about his own childhood growing up in Leeds, when he had to wear cardboard in his shoes for school, Coun Todd added: “In this day and age there is no-one really poor. People are not that poor that they need to go and beg for food.”

Couns Charlie Powell and Sid Hawke also voted against a £1,000 request for funding from the food bank, set up by Ripon Community Church.

But Couns Bernard Bateman, Julie Ann Martin-Long and Alan Skidmore defended the food bank at the meeting.

Coun Skidmore, who chaired the meeting, said: “No child in this city should go to school without food in their stomachs.”

Coun Skidmore said he had encouraged the food bank’s volunteers to apply for funding and not to “be coy about it”.

“You can point your finger, you can say this and that, but in the twenty-first century in this city, poverty is unacceptable,” he said.

Coun Martin-Long added: “There is a huge number of people living on the breadline, despite Ripon appearing like a wealthy area.”

Coun Bateman, who is chairman of North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), insisted the food bank’s resources are distributed on a means test basis.

“It is for people in need and for that reason I support it,” he said.

Ripon Community Church’s treasurer Alec Lutton, 63, who helps run the food bank, defended the work of the volunteers, saying: “We don’t supply any cigarettes, we don’t supply any alcohol, we only supply food.”

He told the Gazette: “If this councillor saw someone who had an accident and needed help, would he just walk away and leave them?

“We just try to care for people in the community.”

A decision on funding for the food bank was put on hold.