25 August 2012

The Guardian, letters Page, 25th August 2012.

Local authorities will not only have responsibility for the social fund from April 2013 (Breadline Britain: councils fund food banks to plug holes in welfare state, 22 August) – they will also, thanks to the local government finance bill, have to implement a local council tax benefit which is to apply to people the council considers to be in financial need. There is nothing in the bill to prevent councils deciding to give vouchers for local food banks to meet financial need. They are already issued by jobcentres, Citizens Advice bureaux and some charities. Food banks can provide a little low-level nutrition in a crisis for three days, but were never designed to cope with months of malnutrition due to an inadequate level of incomes or benefits.

No guidance about financial need will be issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government, whose ministers, along with every member of the cabinet, have abdicated the primary moral duty of a civilised government for ensuring their poorest fellow citizens have enough income to buy a healthy diet. This moral lacuna damages the economy: it creates massive costs for the health service and lost time at work. Nutritionists frequently remind us that Britain was better fed from 1940 to 1945, a time of war and far greater economic crisis than the present.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty