Last year the BBC reported that the number of people using the foodbank in Cheltenham had quadrupled at a time when foodbank use in Gloucestershire as a whole doubled. The BBC quoted a survey by the Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest foodbank network, which compared the number of people accessing food banks between 1 April to 30 June 2013 with the same period the previous year. This period was significant because it coincided with the introduction of a several welfare reforms which were forecast to have dire consequences on the most vulnerable.
Subsequently Cheltenham Foodbank reported in November 2013 that 902 people had been provided for since April, which it described as an “enormous jump” on the previous period.
The disturbing increase in foodbank use coincides with the incessant message from the Coalition government that the UK economy is in recovery.
Cheltenham`s LibDem MP Martin Horwood told readers of his website on February 19th:
This was extremely misleading as the town`s unemployment figure had actually risen by 74 to 1,748 compared with the previous month, as the Citizen reported at the time! Horwood was comparing the February figure with the previous year.
Due to zero hours contracts many people have been taken off the unemployment figures, but there are an increasing number of people who aren`t classed as unemployed yet are having to resort to foodbanks – in other words: in work but in poverty.
In February this year Joanne Mason of Cheltenham foodbank made a desperate appeal for donations, she told the Echo:
“We are in real need of food donations as our supplies are low.”
“I have been involved here for five years and this is the worst year I have known it.
“I think it shows the challenges people are facing.”
Cheltenham`s foodbank started up in early February 2012, Cheltenham residents had previously been going to Gloucester`s foodbank for help.
Fake shops essential to a fake recovery
In one of the poorest parts of Cheltenham the impression of a recovery has been given by the fake shop fronts installed in Coronation Square in June 2013.
The Western Daily Press reported the views of LibDem Councillor Simon Wheeler (a borough and county councillor who sits on the Hesters Way Partnership), who said the fake shops had made a “huge difference” to the centre. He said: “It should cut down on antisocial behaviour. When you have shutters and graffiti you are almost asking for trouble.
The local people I have spoken to think it is wonderful.”
Curiously no local people were directly quoted in the article!
Even Cllr Wheeler felt obliged to point out the obvious downside:
“I am very happy with it, it does actually make the centre look like a vibrant and busy place but when you lift the corner you can see that it is dead. Obviously it is a poor relation to having actual shops there.”
Cheltenham`s LibDem MP has betrayed the people he promised to help
In his maiden speech in Parliament (made in 2005) Cheltenham`s LibDem MP Martin Horwood mentioned the poverty and inequality in his constituency:
“There is inequality in Cheltenham. I have been elected not just by readers of The Guardian living in elegant regency properties—although I think that I probably did count on their votes—but by people who have to work hard just to make ends meet on streets and estates that suffer very significantly lower incomes, worse health and fewer educational opportunities than those in the more affluent parts of town. Those people expect me to fight for change in this House, and I promise to do so.”