Food bank criticises councillors’ calls to launch new operation as ‘folly’

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The New Forest Basics Bank depends on regular contributions of food from the public

TRUSTEES of the New Forest Basics Bank have criticised comments made by New Milton councillors considering an application for funding to support its relocation

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Having become one of the longest serving independent food banks since launching in 2004, the Lymington-based charity called the response from New Milton’s finance and general purposes (F&GP) committee to its bid “disconcerting”.

As reported in the A&T, the bank is relocating from behind the United Reformed Church in High Street, where it has been since 2008, to land behind Our Lady of Mercy & St Joseph’s Church in the same road. A new wood-clad building will be provided there by a local company.

But the F&GP members did not decide on the application and instead argued there was a need to launch such a scheme in New Milton itself.

Cllr Steve Clarke stressed it was a larger town with a high proportion of residents who need to use a foodbank, saying: “It doesn’t make sense going to a smaller town when a lot of the support comes back here.”

Cllr Geoffrey Blunden questioned how people using the Lymington one could afford to travel there and back.

However, many of the comments made at that meeting were described as “inaccurate” by the NFBB trustees.

Chairman Oliver Stanley said: “In a direct response to Cllr Geoffrey Blunden’s remark suggesting that those in New Milton who need the food bank facility have to travel into Lymington to receive a food parcel; this is incorrect.

“New Milton clients, as with all our clients, do not have to pay to travel to and from Lymington. The vast majority of parcels are delivered to the client by our wonderful teams of dedicated volunteer drivers, at no cost to the client whatsoever.”

As well as Lymington and New Milton, the bank supports those living in Barton, Brockenhurst, East Boldre, Burley and Lyndhurst.

A detailed document outlining plans for the move, which was handed to New Milton Town Council with the grant aid application, actually states food parcels are mainly delivered directly to clients’ homes by volunteer drivers. It adds clients “occasionally” travel to the cabin to collect them.

Volunteers prepare items from the food bank for delivery

New Milton mayor Cllr Alvin Reid was also criticised for his comments in response to NFBB’s statement that it needed help to plug an £85,000 shortfall towards a £210,000 cost quoted for the move.

“Cllr Alvin Reid’s suggestion that a £2,000 Portakabin would be sufficient for the needs of NFBB reveals a lack of understanding of our operation and its costs,” Mr Stanley continued.

“Having taken professional advice on what would be required to expand the operation to fulfil the increased demand, NFBB is satisfied that the current proposition would be cost-effective, and would offer a permanent solution to the smooth running of the operation moving forward, and further, will allow the space required to add additional services, such as signposting for other agencies, privacy for clients in distress and help with other aspects of clients’ wellbeing.

“NFBB is investing £75,000 of their own resources in this project, and we are in the process of approaching the local councils where our clients live to see if they can assist.”

Mr Stanley added: “New Milton clients make up approximatelt 48% of the parcels sent out from NFBB annually, and it was on that basis that NMTC were approached to discuss possible funding to help secure the new premises, since for NFBB to provide this help to New Milton’s families and individuals in need, comes at no cost to the council.

“It would seem folly for NMTC to set up an additional facility when NFBB already serves this part of the New Forest.

“The trustees are most grateful for the support they have received from New Forest District Council, in particular for its provision of a site for the new building, from the Lymington and Pennington Town Council, in particular for its award of £50,000 matched funding.”

A 25% increase in use of the food bank was attributed by its operators to factors including the current socio-economic climate coupled with the roll-out of Universal Credit.

They said this had caused many people on or below the poverty line to suffer, along with those in low-paid work.

This meant it was very important that NFBB was able to continue delivering to clients in need, they said, while working alongside agencies and charities across the region.

The operators invited New Milton town councillors interested in the food bank’s running to visit the Lymington cabin to observe first-hand the work involved in the far-reaching organisation.

Mr Stanley concluded: “Other councils and organisations, large or small, who would wish to support NFBB in its work in providing basic needs for those who have fallen on difficult times, would be most welcome, and indeed are encouraged to donate to our new building fund.”

At a recent meeting of the full New Milton Town Council, members backed a call to set up a working party to look into the possibility of a food bank being sited locally.

The New Forest Basics Bank was launched over 15 years ago by John Begbour, a church pastor from New Milton who started to collect basic foodstuffs in his home after recognising a local need.

As the need grew, Churches Together in Lymington took over the operation and it moved to that town, becoming a registered charity in 2014.

People and organisations who would like to donate to the building fund can visit www.basicsbank.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/New-Building-Appeal.pdf or call the NFBB on 01590 610 008.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Since almost half of the demand for food parcels comes from New Milton, I can well understand the Town Council’s view that the location of the premises may need further evaluation. One may assume that the demand for additional services will be/is similar, hence half the clientele will need to be able to get to and from the premises to access this vital assistance.
    It is fantastic (and obviously invaluable) that volunteers are able to deliver the parcels but we should remember any additional carbon footprint because of the service not being located in a site of greatest demand.
    Government agencies need to address the needs of society and not expect charitable organisations to pick up the pieces.
    A difficult conundrum as the volunteers, premises and service are currently based in Lymington and without question supply an excellent service.
    I can understand both sides view and perhaps a dialogue will evolve to enable a best solution.

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