One of the cruellest effects of the austerity programme pursued by the coalition and Conservative governments since 2010 has been the surge in the number of us who turn in destitution to food banks. In 2008/9, the Trussell Trust provided 29,000 emergency food supplies; in 2016/17, it provided 1.2 million.
Its figures show that most of us (69 per cent) turn to food banks because of low incomes, or benefit delays, or benefit changes. These overlapping reasons we can trace back to key austerity policies: welfare cuts and sanctions, the pay cap in public services, and the blind eye turned to the expansion of precarious work (zero-hours and 'gig' contracts, for example) as capital restructured after the crash.
Since 2010 the British state – seeking a freer hand with which to discipline its scapegoats – has resiled from the responsibility not to let people living in the country starve, and forced it instead onto private charity. Now, with the accelerating introduction of Universal Credit, we fear a winter food crisis. Next week the Cambridge People's Assembly Against Austerity will spend campaign funds on donations for Cambridge City Foodbank, as we call on the chancellor to halt Universal Credit in his budget on Wednesday 22 November.
Secretary, Cambridge People's Assembly
The letter above was printed in the Cambridge News on 18 November 2017. It is republished here with the kind permission of the newspaper.