To the dismay and anger of Labour councillors present at a Coventry Council debate on food banks, Cllr Julia Lepoidevin couldn’t wait to get stuck in and demonise local residents who turn to food banks to help feed their families.

The tory councillor for Coventry’s Woodlands ward suggested that people who visit food banks prefer to “choose alcohol, drugs and their own selfish needs” over providing food for their own children. The comment prompted swift calls for her to resign her position.

Speaking at the meeting on Tuesday, Cllr Julia Lepoidevin said: “We all know that there is genuine need. My church gives regularly to the food bank.

“But do colleagues in this chamber never have cases where families make a conscious decision not to pay their rent, their 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. It might be a shame but it is true and those very families that I describe are the very families that will not engage with our services early and our services then have to pick up the problems through social care.

“This is why we need to know the impact lifestyle choices are having on our children. Until we know that we are never going to know the proper picture.”

Labour Councillors present at the food bank debate were so disgusted and angered by what they were hearing, Lord Mayor Hazel Noonan had to step in to restore order.

Responding to the comments made by Julia Lepoidevin, Labour Councillor Damian Gannon said:

“Councillor Lepoidevin’s comments were, quite frankly, reprehensible.

“Those in poverty aren’t feckless, they aren’t alcoholics or drug users, they aren’t looking for an easy life on benefits – they are hard-working people, low-income families who are looking to do the best they can for themselves and their families and that’s a fact!”

Labour’s Ed Ruane, cabinet member for children’s services, added:

“Councillor Lepoidevin’s commented that people who use food banks in Coventry do so because of lifestyle choices and because they are feckless.

“If she genuinely believes this appalling slur then she should produce the evidence or resign from the shadow cabinet.”

A furious operations director at a Coventry food bank said Councillor Lepoidevin’s comments risks stigmatising food bank users and could deter the city’s residents from donating to the food bank, which helps feed almost 18,000 local people a year.

Speaking to the Coventry Telegraph, operations director Gavin Kibble said:

“People come to us because they are referred to us by third-party agencies.

“One of those agencies is the agency for people recovering from addiction to drugs and alcohol. But you can’t do the drink and drugs and just turn up. People are signposted to us through agencies.

“The food bank does not decide who it gives food to, it works on a voucher referral system from agencies.”

He added: “It sidelines people. We have people referred to us from domestic violence agencies, children’s services, debt issues.

“Are we going to stigmatise every part of society and question every decision they have made before deciding if we help them?

“We are going down a very dangerous road. Where do we stop?”

“It won’t stop people seeking support, but comments like that might stop people donating.

“When councillors make comments like this, for one reason or another, they muddy the water and that doesn’t help.”

Local Conservative Party leader John Blundell later backed his colleagues comments by referring to “some” bank users as being “feckless” sections of the community, who “do not engage” and “take advantage” of the service food banks provide.

He said: “I think she was talking from personal experiences. I think, undoubtedly, there’s a certain section of the community that is taking advantage of food banks just as there is a section which has genuine need. I would stand by that.”

“Her comments are a reflection of the frustration that families do not engage with us because they are feckless, they have issues connected with alcohol and we find it a very frustrating exercise.”

The Coventry Telegraph say that around 50 local people a day are using food banks and the total number (17,663) is up 40% in just 12 months.

  • John Mangan

    “In her spare time she is an active member of Hearsall Baptist Church where she serves as Treasurer.” it says on her official page. Seems the whole Christian message went over her head as well. Hypocrite.

    • Grytpype

      The ‘treasurer’ bit might be significant, though.

    • the same can be said of ‘catholic’ Iain Duncan Smith prays on sundays distributes misery to the most vulnerable on monday trying to turn our welfare system into the debacle that is USA welfare

    • Sean O’neil

      my god she;s not even c of e how did she get into the tories in the first. still can see were here fantasy world comes from.

  • Gen William Taggart

    Define engage? The reality is that anybody engaging with the system, will end up in a worse position than they did before they started. So to try and and justify this political diatribe in this manner staggers belief.

  • mrsthelens

    sounds a bit like mp’s expences, do they realy need them or just claim them for the fun of it, at least people who have done ale/drugs have to be seen to get a free chitty for food, whats an mp’s reason for needing a food allowance each day

  • Marcus

    Actually no, sod it, I wasn’t going to add anything except to Grytpype’s comment.
    If any Tory party member honestly believes that most families using foodbanks are drunks and junkies, they are sorely mistaken, and for this one clown to turn around and say that it was probably personal experience – I wouldn’t be so sure. Mr Cameron – not to my knowledge at least – has yet to “engage” with people who ACTUALLY USE food banks. The only answer these fat pig money sucking cretins have whenever they are wrong is to insult and verbally abuse and I am thoroughly tired of it. The sooner these pathetic and vile charlatans are ousted the better.

  • florrie webster

    Cold charity ,just like in victorian times. I read charles Dickens novels ,the similiarities between then and today are very disturbing. I think the tories want poor people to feel humble ,with no hope,and no dignity.

  • Sean O’neil

    does anybody expect anything else from the tories, lets face it intelligence and education are not their strong points, whilst compassion and understanding are non existence. in fact our pm, eton educated (sic) is so badly educated he thinks there are 4 countrys in the uk .try 3 mr Cameron and 6 irish counties or is he thinking of invading another country to add to the morass.