Last Friday I went to see the new foodbank opened at Cudworth Library. It was a day of mixed emotions. On the one hand, I had huge admiration for the volunteers behind the foodbank - people like Reverend David Nicholson. These are the heroes of our community - the glue that holds us together. But I also felt a deep sense of shame that in the seventh richest economy on the planet, it was necessary to organise food parcels just to help people feed their families.
Since 2010, there has been an exponential increase in the number of people visiting foodbanks. Last year the Trussell Trust, the UK's largest foodbank network, saw almost 350,000 people across Britain turn up for help. This is a shocking 747 per cent increase since the last full year of the previous Labour Government.
The out of touch minister Michael Gove recently, and disgracefully, claimed that the reason people find themselves having to rely on foodbanks is “as a result of some decisions that have been taken by those families”. These ministers simply don’t get it. They are either oblivious to the damage their policies are causing, or they just don’t care.
Under this Government, families in Yorkshire are on average more than £1,700 a year worse off. And whilst people earning over £150,000 have been given a tax cut, things like energy bills for ordinary folk have increased by £300 a year.
Life is getting harder for most people and Ed Miliband was absolutely right to talk about the cost of living crisis this week and to outline the practical measures to help people - from freezing energy prices to abolishing the hated bedroom tax.
The last Labour government didn't get everything right. That’s why Ed Miliband has been changing Labour's policies on things like immigration and welfare. But Labour's legacy in Barnsley included things like new schools, hospitals and sure start centres. David Cameron’s legacy in Barnsley is the sight of people having to queue up in Cudworth with their small children for tins of beans and powdered milk. I am angry about that - and you should be too.
The above article appeared on page 12 of the Barnsley Chronicle (Cudworth edition) on September 27 2013