Storm over Tory councillor’s ‘inhuman’ food bank comments

Mark Winn
Mark Winn

A Conservative councillor has been forced to apologise after he tweeted that foodbanks are only used by ‘those with drug, alcohol and mental health problems’.

Mark Winn, who represents Bedgrove on Aylesbury Vale District Council, and recently sat on Bucks County Council’s health scrutiny committee, made the comments during an episode of Casualty on Saturday night.

The councillor was reacting to a storyline in the episode where a young mother who, contrary to initial suspicions of drug abuse, is actually suffering from malnutrition.

The tweet read: “See BBC are up to supporting Labour propaganda rubbish, the people visiting foodbanks are those with drug, alcohol + mental health problems.”

The comments were quickly retweeted and picked up by the national press.

One outraged Twitter user told him: “Are you serious? People visiting food banks are the most vulnerable in society – you should be ashamed of your attitude!”

Mr Winn later said he wished to apologise if he caused offense and added that he would be visiting a food bank to see the work they do.

UKIP councillor Phil Gomm called for Mr Winn to resign.

He said: “On my division I have centres and churches that help people that are needy,both young and old with food parcels and other bits and pieces.

“It’s extremely hard for those people to come forward through whatever reason, mainly embarrassment of the need.

“Now with these comments on top, a great deal of hard work connecting with our needy residents will possibly be jeopardised with some, if not many?

“His comments are extremely distasteful and also discriminate against others. A letter of complaint is being made to the AVDC leader requesting his resignation for his inhuman comments.”

However, Mr Gomm’s UKIP colleague Phil Yerby stood by Mr Winn. On Twitter he said he wasn’t aware of any comments of support from Mr Winn’s fellow Tories, ‘which shows how quickly all parties dump people for political expediency’.

He also tweeted: “You should see what Aylesbury Labour are saying, calling for Mark Winn to resign. I am not and support him. He made one mistake.”

Mr Winn said in a statement: “I wish to apologise if I caused offense to people with my remark on Twitter regarding food banks.

“I fully appreciate the need for food banks for the use of people in need whatever their personal circumstances and I salute the work that staff in them do.

“I have witnessed first-hand when someone close had a nervous breakdown and needed to call on help in a hostel, so I personally understand the role charities play when people find themselves in need through circumstances that are beyond their control.

“I will be privately visiting a local food bank in the next couple of weeks to see for myself the work they do.”