Leading Labour political figure Ed Balls was in Colne yesterday.
On the day that new food bank usage figures revealed showing a huge increase in the North West, Mr Balls, the party’s Shadow Chancellor, joined Azhar Ali, its candidate for Pendle at next month’s General Election, in a tour of a food bank then meet families to discuss family finances.
The pair met staff and users of the Open Door Centre in Great George Street before going on to speak to more people in La Villa Restaurant in Church Street.
Figures from the Trussell Trust show that the number of people using their emergency food banks in the North West increased from 7,453 in 2011-12 to 157,248 in 2014-15.
Meanwhile, the number of jobs paying less than a living wage has risen by 1.5 million in the same period and there are now 1.8 million people on zero-hour contracts.
Mr Balls pledged a Labour Government would introduce a five point plan which will tackle the root causes of rising food bank dependency:
l Raise the minimum wage to at least £8 an hour before 2020, promote a living wage and end zero hours contracts so that working people can bring home enough to feed their families.
l Ensure a co-ordinated Government approach to food policy.
l Get a grip on delayed benefit payments, including Jobseekers Allowance, and Personal Independence Payments for disabled people, which are pushing more people to food banks.
l Abolish targets for benefit sanctions by ensuring the system is implemented fairly by raising awareness of hardship payments, reducing waiting times for hardship payments, and making sure protections are in place for the most vulnerable.
l Abolish the Bedroom Tax, which has hit over half a million people, two thirds of them disabled, pushing many into debt and through the doors of food banks.