A CITY councillor has been slammed for comments suggesting parents only used foodbanks because they spent cash on alcohol and drugs.
Julia Lepoidevin said some families in Coventry made a conscious decision not to pay rent or provide for their children.
The Conservative councillor later told the Observer she had been trying to raise the issue of children being forced into care.
But Coun Lepoidevin – the shadow spokesperson for children’s services – was slammed by Labour councillors who said they were staggered by her views.
In a council debate on Tuesday she had said: “We all know there is genuine need. My church gives regularly to the foodbank.
“But do colleagues in this chamber never have casework where families make a conscious decision not to pay their rent, utilities or to provide food for their children because they choose alcohol, drugs and their own selfish needs?
“There are families that have enough income and make a choice.”
Responding to shouts of ‘shame’ from the Labour benches, she added: “It might be a shame but it’s true.”
Coun Lepoidevin later told the Observer: “I’ve asked in the past about why there are so many problems in the city and I just get stock answers like unemployment or the cuts.
“We’ve never had any breakdown or facts about why they are occurring.
“I knew Labour would jump on the bandwagon and make me look bad but I’m concerned about emotional abuse and neglect and what’s causing it.
“I wanted to take the debate down that route.”
More than 16,000 people used Coventry’s foodbank in 2013, with nearly half of those being affected by benefit changes.
Labour Councillor Ed Ruane, the council’s head of children’s services, said: “It is unbelievable but not surprising that Coventry’s Tories are so ignorant of the plight of the neediest people in our city and, even worse, that they are willing to blame foodbank users for their own poverty.
“Despite all the evidence that the growth of foodbanks is due to the cost of living crisis, stagnant wages, delays to social security payments, and the bedroom tax, the Tories prefer to blame the charities and the people who directly benefit from their hard work and voluntary service.”
Tory leader John Blundell had earlier claimed the rise of foodbanks was down to the ‘unbridled’ ambition of the Trussell Trust to have one in every town in the UK.
“The way to reduce the dependency on foodbank is to grow the economy, which is what this government is doing,” he added.
His deputy leader Allan Andrews later told the Observer: “It is clear that people visit food banks for a variety of different reasons which need to be understood.
“The use of food banks went up tenfold during the previous government and that was when the country was experiencing a period of sustained economic growth, so these reasons are complex.
“Food banks provide an incredibly valuable service, and I would like to pay tribute to the hard-working volunteers involved, some of whom I met when I visited a food bank in Hillfields.”
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