A COUNCIL leader has backed a call by two MEPs for government funding to support foodbanks.
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, has added his signature to a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron – along with other North-East local authority leaders - that has been written by North East Labour MEPs Jude Kirton-Darling and Paul Brannen.
In their letter to the PM, the two MEPs claim that up to £22m of EU funds – part of a £2.5bn pot made available to help Europe’s most needy – will not be available to support food banks due to the stance of the UK government.
The letter says: “We understand your opposition to the European Union but the fact is that the money is available and should be used as there is clear and desperate need.
“It is wrong to block support for the most vulnerable people for ideological reasons.
“You have claimed that support for food banks should be a national decision, yet the decision of your government is to not support food banks at all. We do not believe that is right.
“In the medium-term, we would like to see food bank use decline through an increased minimum wage, less use of zero-hour contracts and a youth job guarantee for young people.
“However, in the short-term, while the need is there, the Government must do what it can to stop people from going hungry.”
Hartlepool’s Foodbank, which is based in Church Street, hands out hundreds of food parcels to some of the town’s most needy families.
Coun Akers-Belcher said: “I wholeheartedly support the demand by Jude and Paul that the UK Government takes advantage of these EU funds to help relieve the extreme hardship that many people are currently enduring.
“It is an absolute disgrace that in 2014 so many people are relying on handouts from food banks, and the Government’s stance on the EU funding only serves to make an already bad situation so much worse.
“It is another example of just how out of touch with real life this uncaring Government is.
“Hartlepool council has provided its own financial support to the town’s foodbank because we recognise the vital role that it plays in looking after people who often have nowhere else to turn to for help, and we would urge Mr Cameron to reconsider his Government’s position on this matter.”
The Mail launched the We Can Do It campaign to boost donations for the vital charity cause.