4 July 2013

I have pointed out the growth of both foodbanks and the numbers of people using them in Cornwall and elsewhere. I have linked these to changes and incompetencies in the benefit system which have left people without enough money to feed their families and heat their homes.

However, David Freud, the benefits minister, has said that “it is difficult to know what came first, the supply or the demand”. The supply is the foodbank, the demand is the users. He said that foodbanks are a free good and “there is an almost infinite demand for a free good” (Lords Hansard 2 July 2013 column 1072).

In short, the view of the Tory Libdem government is that the foodbanks might be not so much serving a need of hungry people without enough money to buy food as rather themselves creating a need. People are using them not because they are short of money for food and everything else but are taking advantage of the free food because it is there.

As people have to be referred to foodbanks it is very unlikely that there is much freeloading. Poverty charities that work on the ground attest that foodbanks are serving a genuine need, a gap in welfare provision by the state; and the need has its origins in the delays in paying benefits and changes such as the localisation of crisis loans. In the government’s language, the demand came first. The need is genuine; Freud is wrong.

What we have is a reluctance by the Tory Libdem government to face up to the unpleasant consequences on people of policy decisions by that government, the impact of those decisions on the everyday lives of people. As the partiality and harshness of government pauperising decisions become more evident, as the cries become louder and the challenges more eager, the retreat of Tory Libdem ministers and MPs into the bunker of denial and unreality will be more marked.

Council tax
Meanwhile in Cornwall as predicted people are having difficulty in paying council tax. The Tory Libdem government localised council tax benefit (and renamed it council tax support) and made it the responsibility of local government, Cornwall Council here, to arrange a benefit system; at the same time the government cut funds for this by ten percent. Cornwall Council, then run by Tories and Independents, decided to require everyone, even the poorest, in a rerun of the poll tax, to pay some council tax. Now we are told that about 6000 are in arrears with their council tax and the council has extraordinarily summonsed about 1000 of them. I cannot see what is positive or constructive about that.

To sum up. Tories and Liberal Democrats are pauperising the poor. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

Related post
Taxing the poor in Cornwall (bedroom tax and council tax benefit)