Councillors reject plan to use tax payers’ money help Grantham’s hungry and homeless

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DISTRICT councillors have rejected a proposal to use tax payers’ money to help fund community charities such as Grantham Foodbank.

Labour councillor Charmaine Morgan put forward a motion at a full meeting of South Kesteven District Council on Thursday calling for a “Voluntary Sector Fund” to be established to help people in the Grantham area who “do not have enough food on the table or a roof over their head”.

Coun Morgan argued the funding for local organisations such as the Grantham Foodbank or the Salvation Army could come from the council’s working balance of more than £2 million.

Coun Morgan made an impassioned speech in an effort to convince fellow councillors, the majority of whom are Conservative, to back her proposal.

She said: “I accept we are in a really difficult financial situation as an organisation but when we go home we have have food on our table and a roof over our head.”

Coun Morgan made her case after stating that more than 40 per cent of people in the Earlesfield and Harrowby estates are “below the poverty line”.

Fellow Labour Coun Mark Ashberry said: “At this present time there are children and adults literally going hungry in our towns and villages and they need the Foodbank.

“In a climate when there is not a lot of money around I believe that if an organisation like a local authority can help alleviate the situation then we should.

“If people are starving now then it is only going to get worse.”

However, Conservative councillors argued it is not the responsibility of the council to use tax payers’ money to fund charitable and voluntary organisations.

SKDC leader Coun Linda Neal said: “Of course we all like to support the voluntary sector and all do our bit in our own communities but at this time I’m not sure the district council can put itself in a position to commit to more funding, over and above what we already do.”

The council’s head of economic development, Coun Frances Cartwright, said it would be wrong to make such a commitment when the council faces funding cuts.

Coun Cartwright said: “It would be very foolish to set up something now when we don’t know where we are going to be in the next four years.

“But we do know it is going to be very difficult to actually balance the books.”

Independent Coun Judy Stevens said she could not support Coun Morgan’s motion as she believed assisting those who need food and shelter is the responsibility of the Government.

Labour Coun Ian Selby asked for a recorded vote on the issue, aiming to force all councillors to publicly declare which way they voted. However, he was one vote shy of the 10 votes required to force a recorded vote.

Coun Morgan’s motion was defeated 36-10.

Speaking after the vote, Coun Morgan said: “I’m deeply disappointed because this was not a political debate, this was about the most vulnerable people in our towns and villages who are going hungry.

“Most of the councillors attended a prayer session at the beginning of council. It is appalling they have voted against this absolutely vital fund.”

Coun Morgan vowed not to give up on her proposal, vowing to draw up a business plan and try again in the future.