> Coming soon – the Pope is a Catholic, study finds….
Austerity policies such as cuts to welfare and local services are driving the rapid spread of food banks in the UK, according to an academic study.
The Oxford University research shows emergency food aid is most concentrated in areas where there are high levels of joblessness and benefit sanctions.
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition persistently refused to acknowledge a link between its economic and social security policies and the explosion in food banks.
But the Oxford study, published in the British Medical Journal, shows demand for food parcels is strongest where poverty is accompanied by restrictions on, and reductions in, social assistance.
“More food banks are opening in areas experiencing greater cuts in spending on local services and central welfare benefits and higher unemployment rates.”
The study, which uses data supplied by the UK’s biggest food bank network, the Trussell Trust, finds food banks operated in 20 UK council areas in 2009-10. By 2013-14 they existed in 251 areas.
At the same time, the rate of food aid distribution tripled between 2010 and 2013 from about 0.6 food parcels per 100 people to 2.2 per 100.
There were stark variations between local areas, from a low of less than 0.1 food parcels per 100 people in Lichfield, Staffordshire, to a high of eight parcels per 100 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
These in part reflected the fact that some areas had more or longer-established food banks, the study found.
Even taking this into account, higher rates of food parcel distribution were still “significantly associated” with welfare cuts and austerity measures.
In particular, the prevalence in an area of benefit sanctions – where unemployed claimants who do not meet jobcentre rules have their payments stopped for at least four weeks – was a strong indicator of food parcel use.
The study says:
“The rise in food bank use is … concentrated in communities where more people are experiencing benefit sanctions.
“Food parcel distribution is higher in areas where food banks are more common and better established, but our data also show that the local authorities with greater rates of sanctions and austerity are experiencing greater rates of people seeking emergency food assistance.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said:
“The government spends £94bn a year on working-age benefits and provides a wide range of advice and assistance for anyone in need of additional support.
“The vast majority of benefits are processed on time with improvements being made year on year and the number of sanctions has actually gone down.”
The lead author of the study, Rachel Loopstra, said it was likely to have “underestimated the true burden of food insecurity in the UK” because food aid provision is patchy and data collection is relatively crude.
She called for further research to capture the full extent of food insecurity and food bank use in the UK. One of the last acts of the coalition was to reject a cross-party call for the government to collect robust data on food poverty.
The study is the latest in a string of separate reports linking welfare reform to food bank use, from poverty charities, churches, MPs, and food banks.
Source – The Guardian, 09 Apr 2015
Teesside councils have again suffered worse than average cuts in the latest government funding announcement.
Figures released today show Middlesbrough Council‘s ‘spending power‘ – the total amount it has at its disposal through central grants and council tax – will fall by £8.9m from £158.4mm in 2014-15 to £149.5m in 2015-16.
That is a cut of 5.6% – compared to an average cut for all English councils of 1.8%.
Redcar and Cleveland will lose £5.2m, or 3.7%, while Stockton emerged relatively unscathed – down £3.6m, or 2.1%.
The list of worst-hit areas is dominated by Labour-dominated parts of the Midlands and North.
> Well, what a suprise !
Tamworth in Staffordshire faces the biggest cut, of 6.4%, followed by Barrow in Furness and Chesterfield.
At the other end of the scale, a number of councils in the South of England will actually see their spending power go up.
Tewkesbury will see the biggest increase, of 3.2%, while Surrey will get an extra £27m, or 3.1%.
Other towns and counties getting an increase include East Devon (up 2.7%), Buckinghamshire (up 2.3%), Cambridge (up 2.3%), Dorset (up 1.9%) and Cheshire East (up 1.4%).
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 18 Dec 2014
The poorest regions in the UK are by far the poorest in all of Northern Europe and much more unequal, figures suggest.
Source – Welfare News Service, 22 Aug 2014
In a big row over a small park, a council leader has criticised the naming of a plot of land after a “right wing Tory”.
A community banded together to transform a tiny patch of private land into Councillor Gerald Lee Park, named after Darlington’s environmentally-friendly town mayor.
The park – which measures around 25 square metres and will be opened tomorrow (Tuesday, July 29) – will soon be pitted against Prince’s Park in Burntwood, Staffordshire in a bid to be named Britain’s Smallest Park.
Darlington Borough Council leader Bill Dixon openly criticised the decision to name the park after Councillor Lee, taking to Darlington Labour Party’s Facebook page to say: “Nice to see we as a Party are so inclusive we celebrate a right wing Tory and name part of our town after him. I think we should rename High Row, Thatcher Way, good idea or what?”
Expanding on his comment, he said: “The council has a policy of not naming things after living people which goes back to the time of the Quakers.
“I’m not detracting from anything Councillor Lee’s done, but we waited a year after John Williams’ death to name somewhere after him.
“There are two issues here, my views of Gerald as a politician – which are my views – and the issue of naming.
“We’ve got it right, you see other authorities naming all sorts after living, politically active people and I think that’s wrong – where does it stop?
“If they tried to name a new building after me, they’d do it over my dead body.”
The park – situated on Victoria Road – has been created by the South Terrace Residents Association in conjunction with the Darlington Guerrilla Gardeners.
One resident said: “We’ve told them to get stuffed – we’ll call it Councillor Gerald Lee Park because he’s our litter-picking Tsar and we admire him for what he’s done in the area.
“Hands off our park is the message from us.”
The mayor echoed the sentiments, saying: “Leave my park alone, Councillor Gerald Lee Park has a nice ring about it – keep my blooming park.
“We’re trying to encourage ideas like this as they make a difference in communities and bureaucracy like this gets in the way and upsets people.”
Source – Northern Echo, 28 July 2014