Election campaign hots up as shadow minister visits foodbank

Maureen Reynel tells leader of the Ipswich Borough Council David Ellesmere and Shadow minister for P

Maureen Reynel tells leader of the Ipswich Borough Council David Ellesmere and Shadow minister for Public Health Luciana Berger about the work the FIND food bank does in Ipswich. - Credit: Su Anderson

Less than 24 hours after Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne was claiming success in the battle to turn around the economy, shadow minister Luciana Berger visited Ipswich to highlight another side of British life in 2015.

She visited the FIND foodbank which provides 60 handouts a week to those who are too poor or maginalised to be able to feed themselves.

She said: “Yesterday we heard from the Chancellor about how wonderful things are – but this is the reality facing many people, the extreme poverty that exists in 2015.”

FIND administrator Maureen Reynell said last year 3,500 food parcels had been distributed – 1,000 in the run-up to Christmas – all to people that were referred to the foodbank from outside agencies.

Ms Berger said the poverty came from people whose benefits had been delayed – or who had been sanctioned and lost benefits for several weeks at a time.

She said: “The bedroom tax causes problems for some people – and 40% of people who are forced to use foodbanks are in work. They are on zero hours contracts or earning the minimum wage and cannot afford to feed themselves.”

FIND has been operating since 1990 – but has seen demand increase dramatically over the last five years. It now spends £1,000 a month on food in addition to donations from members of the public.

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Ms Berger, shadow public health minister, said: “Since the current government came in the number of people using foodbanks across the country has increased from 40,000 to more than a million.”

She was the second leading Labour politician to visit Ipswich to support David Ellesmere’s bid to win the seat this week.

Tom Watson MP joined party workers on the doorsteps of the Chantry estate – and was delighted by the response he found:

“I’ve been canvassing around the country, but this was the first time I’d ever been offered cake by voters!”

The MP has been campaigning in marginal seats across the country – and found that generally his party’s message was going down well.

But every seat has different priorities at the forefront of the mind for voters.

Mr Watson said: “In Ipswich the main concerns we had were jobs, and the quality and security of them, and housing – they are clearly the main priorities in the town.”

And he was encouraged by the number of younger voters he found who said they were determined to take part in May’s general election.

He said: “There is a feeling among people of all ages that they want their voices heard. I think this year we will see a much higher turnout in the general election than we have seen in recent polls.”