Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/731/15108
Crisis services handed over to charity food banks
Many councils are preparing to invest in charity-run food banks because of expected demand for crisis services as a result of devastating welfare cuts. The Socialist has previously reported on the rapidly rising number of food banks in Britain - feeding people struggling to get by with rocketing food and energy prices along with pay freezes, job losses and benefit cuts. 128,697 families were given emergency food supplies by charity organisations last year.
It is an indictment of local councils that they are willing to simply direct more and more of their residents to these limited services rather than stand up and fight for the council to be able to not cut jobs and services and instead provide basic support. This is a letter sent to the Guardian newspaper on the issue:
Once again The Guardian repeats the line that 'councils will no longer be able to' fund another vital service, this time to maintain emergency crisis loans (Councils set to invest in charity-run food banks to help families in crisis, 22 August). It's not a case of can't, but won't.
Referring to Labour-controlled Lambeth you say that "it will not be able to afford cash loans - as happens now - because its social fund budget is being cut" when such spending is devolved to councils from next April. Instead, like other councils, they will fund food banks and other charities offering what your article acknowledges will be inadequate, stigmatising and unreliable US-style "low cost help in kind".
But why don't Labour councils declare now that they will spend what is needed on emergency crisis loans - and maintain existing levels of council tax benefit support for that matter - and present the bill for meeting the funding gap back to the government? That's what Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) councillors would do.
Labour in Westminster could help by pledging that an incoming government would reimburse councils if, for example, they were to use their reserves, or their prudential borrowing powers, to avoid these devastating cuts.
These are choices - and Labour is making the wrong one in not resisting the Con-Dems' rolling back of the welfare state.
Clive Heemskerk, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition national nominating officer
In The Socialist 29 August 2012:
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