African Union: We cannot ignore the plight of Berkshire any longer

Responding to popular calls from the Daily Mail and Nigel Farage, African leaders met in Kinshasa yesterday to discuss the growing floods crisis in the United Kingdom:

Daily Mail floods

‘The images of knee-high water have shocked us all’, said Congo’s President Kabila, whose nation is currently recovering from the most brutal conflict in recorded history since the Second World War.

‘The [Daily] Mail and Mr Farage have made it clear that Britain’s international aid budget, used around the globe to combat AIDS, famine and female genital mutilation, is needed in High Wycombe.

‘Well, we can do one better’.

Governments across the continent have drawn up assistance packages to help the hundreds of Britons forced to sleep in poorly funded community centres, often for days at a time.

‘It is unimaginable’, said Kabila before the assembled statesmen in Kinshasa, ‘In Henley-upon-Thames for example, only one in twenty residents are millionaires. Imagine their insurance premiums’.

Following fears of sandbag shortages at Devon County Council, particularly of that drought-excluder kind, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania has stepped in, offering to drop several thousand sand bags ‘over a wide area’ from strategic bombers. Mauritania, a country which according the UN has between 10% and 20% of its population as slaves, was happy to help.

Eritrea Has Promised To Provide 103% of GDP To Help The UK

‘Hey, we’re in the Sahara’, said a spokesman for the ruling junta, ‘we’re basically made out of sand!’

Eritea floodsThe largest contribution has come from Eritrea. The Red Sea state, whose primary exports include nutmeg and ferrous waste, has promised to match David Cameron’s proposed flood defence fund of £700 million.

‘We are more than happy to help’, said Minister Isaias Afwerki, ‘expending our entire Gross National Product to protect Elton John’s Windsor mansion will be the honour of all Eritreans’.

Alongside state intervention, charities have moved quickly to respond. Professor David Akol of Juba University in Darfur has established Help For The Home Counties.

‘Who can put a price on a pair of waders?’ asks Akol in a moving advert currently broadcasting across the continent, ‘For just £159, a Sudanese farmer can give an IT consultant from Surrey a pair of Endura Stocking Foot Protectors. That’s just four months wages to remove dampness from someone’s life’.

Pleasure Yacht

IRONY: A Pleasure Yacht Succumbs To The Floodwaters

Half a dozen African countries have already offered to back financial aid with boots on the ground to oversee future defences. ‘It is clear’, concluded Kabila, ‘after similar catastrophes in 2000, 2007 and now 2014 that the British government simply lacks the logistical capabilities to stop water coming indoors’.

Meanwhile Syria’s Assad today announced a cease-fire in his nation’s multi-sided civil war to allow for ‘a whip round’ for Britons who have lost their second homes.

 It certainly made me smile!

Councillor in attack on food bank

Councillor Chris Steward

A senior York politician has sparked a furious row by saying there is no real poverty in Britain and people should not donate to food banks.

Chris Steward, a Conservative councillor, said living standards had surged, that there was no need for food banks, that they were an insult to starving people around the world, and that donating to them allowed recipients to spend more money on alcohol and cigarettes.

But his comments have been condemned by political opponents and The Trussell Trust, which runs 275 banks nationwide.  Chris Mould, the charity’s executive chairman, said more than 10,000 professionals nationwide were referring people to food banks and said: “He is making totally inappropriate assertions which I challenge him to back up with proper evidence.”

Coun Steward said on twitter that it insulted those in poverty to claim it existed in the UK. Asked to elaborate, he said Britain had relative poverty, like every country, but not absolute poverty.

He said:

“We have lots of poor people, but living standards have surged over the years. There is certainly no need for food banks; no-one in the UK is starving and I think food banks insult the one billion in the world that go to bed hungry every day and ignore the fact a child dies of hunger every three seconds.”

“The fact some give food to food banks, merely enables people who can’t budget (an issue where schools should do much more and I have said the council should) or don’t want to, to have more money to spend on alcohol, cigarettes etc.”

Mr Mould said Coun Steward was “poorly informed” and said living standards for people on low incomes had declined in recent years, with heating costs rising by 65 per cent in five years and the cost of basic food rising by’ 35 per cent. He said it was stereotyping to say those on low incomes were using money unwisely, saying there were many reasons why people found themselves in crisis.

Chris Mould said:

“He says there is no need for food banks; I am astonished by his assertion. What does he know? Where is his evidence? More than 10,000 front-line professionals, week in week out, are referring people they are trying to help to food banks.  They are seeing people from Cornwall to Inverness, York to Liverpool, and in increasing numbers they are referring people to food banks.  I am talking from an evidence-base of 10,000 care professionals who would argue with him. It is astonishing he would make an assertion like that.”

food bank

Mr Mould said nobody suggested people should not be distressed or outraged by unnecessary hunger elsewhere in the world, but said:

“It is clear that people in the UK who we meet have been going without meals when they arrive at food banks. They are going to bed hungry too. We are one of the richest countries in the world, but one of the most unequal in terms of income distribution in Europe.”

I found it amazing in this period of recession where most weeks there are major news articles on increases in poverty in the UK that a local politician would go as far to state there is no need for food banks.  As someone who has worked with young people and families for nearly a decade, I’ve helped them access food banks many times – they are incredibly valuable local tools.

What do you think?  Was Councillor Steward right to say we don’t need food banks?

———————– UPDATE ———————–

The York Press are now reporting that:

The York councillor who sparked an angry backlash by saying food banks were not needed has said he will visit one to see how they work.

Chris Steward, chairman of York Conservatives and councillor for Rural West York, made the offer after he came under fire for comments revealed in The Press on Thursday. Coun Steward claimed there was no real poverty in the UK.

He has since said on twitter that he would be happy to visit a food bank to work a shift.

York Labour councillor Dafydd Williams also yesterday invited Coun Steward to visit the York food bank at Gateway Church in Acomb, and called the councillor’s comments “ill-informed”. Coun Steward declined to add to his comments on twitter when contacted by The Press.