One of the pioneers of British Food Banks has hit out at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s call for them to be nationalised as part of a new government department called Feeding Britain. Robin Aitken, who set-up the Oxford Food Bank, said he was “tired” of being told Food Banks disgrace Britain and warned of the dangers of the “dead hand of the state” becoming involved.
Yesterday The Most Reverend Justin Welby called for state funding of Food Banks, a policy that is expected to cost £150m a year. Aitken said he believed there was no reason why what his team has achieved in Oxford could not be rolled out across the rest of the UK without any cost to the taxpayer.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday Aitken said: “The one thing that would surely stop the whole thing in its tracks is if the dead hand of the State were to get involved.
“It is striking that the Archbishop’s call for state involvement should come in a week when the Chancellor warned in his Autumn Statement that cuts in public spending will be with us for years to come. In this age of austerity the State has to shrink, not expand.
“It is exactly the wrong moment to be talking about taxpayers’ money for food banks. I am tired of hearing from the Left how food banks ‘disgrace’ Britain…”
Welby’s intervention was timed to coincide with the launch of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in Britain which described the situation in Britain as “social Dunkirk” whereby large numbers of people were left to fend for themselves.
The report calls for changes to benefits, along with providing school meals during holidays. It also suggests the European Union be allowed to fund Food Banks. Aitken questioned whether state funding would improve his branch in Oxford, which already distributes around five tonnes of food that would have been thrown away every week.
Aitken said: “Whatever the Left say about the Conservative-led Coalition’s cuts ‘fuelling’ the rise in food banks, the poorest people in any decade have always gone hungry, regardless of which party was in power.
“It is to our credit, not our shame, that there are now many industrious, caring people setting up and running food banks to provide food to those who need it.”
The report into hunger represents one of the biggest rifts between a government and the Church of England in decades. But the government was sticking to it’s guns today with the Prime Minister’s Official Press Spokesman telling journalists that David Cameron believes poverty can only be alleviated by tax cuts and a flexible labour market.