CAMPAIGNERS behind a petition to scrap a Chester foodbank’s £7,700 rent bill say the council which levies the fee has “no sense of morality”.
Chris Matheson and Justin Madders hope to collect more than 1,500 signatures to ensure the issue will be discussed by councillors on Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC).
Mr Matheson, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate, and Mr Madders, CwaC’s Labour group leader, blame the council’s Tory-led administration for the “scandal”.
They proposed slashing the authority’s marketing budget to allow the West Cheshire Foodbank to use two council-owned units on the Stanney Mill Industrial Estate for free – but the proposal was blocked.
Now the pair say the only way to help the foodbank is to drum up public support through a petition and demand the council listens.
Mr Madders told the Leader: “This council has no sense of morality in its social obligations. We believe the council should not be charging local foodbanks rent when they are providing a service to the poorest in our society. I’m calling on this to be debated by the full council.”
Foodbanks have proven a vital resource for struggling families, who are referred to the service by health agencies or social services.
They receive tokens that are exchanged for food, which has been donated by individuals or through businesses, schools, churches, supermarkets and other organisations.
Almost 12,000 adults and 6,700 children in Cheshire received foodbank parcels between April 2013 and April this year.
Mr Matheson said: “It’s a real scandal that the council is charging the local food banks almost £8,000 a year in rent when they are there to help not only the poorest in our communities but working families who have fallen on hard times as the cost of living crisis continues.
“The fact we need food banks in Chester in the 21st Century is shameful in itself.
“It shows a complete failing of this government. But for the council to be charging foodbanks money which could be used more effectively to benefit the people who need it is wholly unacceptable.”
The council's Tory administration has defended itself in the past, saying the council has an obligation to get best value for taxpayers and does not make any profit from the rent charged.
Local councillors also receive a grant which they can use to help foodbanks, it said, and people did not raise any issues with charging rent during a public consultation on the council’s budget for the year.
A spokesman for West Cheshire Foodbank, run by The Trussell Trust, said he was aware of the petition but could not comment any further.