Ian Austin MP

Labour MP for Dudley North

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Dudley Chronicle, 6 March

The government has to face up to the food banks crisis, not pretend that it doesn't exist.

 

FOOD BANKS

We’re now less than two weeks away from this year’s Budget.

George Osborne will be keen to show off any figures indicating that the economy has finally started growing after he started slashing budgets three years ago. That’s good news, but from speaking to local families I know how hard people are struggling to make ends meet.

Prices are rising, wages are falling and everyday families are £1,600 per year worse off. It’s this cost of living crisis coupled with chaos in the government’s welfare reforms that caused demand for food banks to triple last year, hitting families who can’t put enough food on the table.

Rather than face up to this food banks crisis, the government wants to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Last year government ministers claimed that the growing number of food banks was driving demand, instead of the other way round. Now they’re saying that food banks are growing because supermarkets are donating more food to them.

Conservatives even joined with UKIP MEPs to snub a £3 million aid package that would have supported food banks up and down the country. That’s a real slap in the face for volunteers like those at the Black Country Food Bank who are struggling to meet soaring demand from hungry families.

They’re determined to pretend there’s no crisis, but they have to face to the truth – many families face a cost of living crisis and the benefits system is in chaos.

George Osborne should use the upcoming budget to offer some support to families that are struggling to feed themselves. For a start he should bring back the 10p tax rate to help 24 million people on lower incomes meet the cost of living.

IMMIGRATION CHAOS

In my last column I called for the government to get a grip on border controls. Last week’s rise in migration figures shows that they’ve got a long way to go with net migration to the UK up by 58,000 on the previous year.

David Cameron promised, "no ifs, no buts" to cut net migration to below 100,000, yet these figures show net migration has gone up and is now more than twice his target figure at 212,000.

This shouldn’t be a surprise once you know that border checks have halved since 2010.

The government has to get a grip on this – there’s no point in having tough rules for people coming here if they’re not being enforced. We need action on entrance tests and border controls that more than 7 in 10 local people told me they backed.

FAIR TRADE

It was great to meet with local volunteers celebrating Fairtrade Fortnight at the Co-op in Sedgley last Friday.

Local businesses including the Co-op, Greggs and Subway all got together to show their support for the cause.

I’ve backed Fairtrade for a long time, so it’s great to see local businesses getting celebrating their commitment to it.

It just goes to show that Fairtrade doesn’t just tackle farmers living in poverty around the world, but it helps our economy and local businesses in the UK too.

HOLDEN'S BREWERY

Tomorrow I’ll be heading to Holden’s Brewery in Woodsetton to receive a Beer Champion award from head of the family business Jonothan Holden.

I’m delighted to have worked with pubs and brewers on their successful campaigns to safeguard the future of local brewing. Measures such as the beer duty cut will protect jobs, keep the price of a pint down and keep pubs open.

The Black County is home to the country’s best ales and Holden’s are no exception. With the right help there’ll be more local breweries following in Holden’s footsteps which has grown to run twenty pubs.

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