“The United Kingdom has lost an extraordinary public servant in Prince Philip.
“Prince Philip dedicated his life to our country – from a distinguished career in the Royal Navy during the Second World War to his decades of service as the Duke of Edinburgh.
“However, he will be remembered most of all for his extraordinary commitment and devotion to The Queen.
“For more than seven decades, he has been at her side. Their marriage has been a symbol of strength, stability and hope, even as the world around them changed – most recently during the pandemic. It was a partnership that inspired millions in Britain and beyond.
“My thoughts are with The Queen, the Royal Family and the British people as our nation comes together to mourn and remember the life of Prince Philip.”
In Teignmouth we have been running a community food larder since July 2020, as a response to the pandemic. We have wonderful volunteers, many of them Labour members, and we serve a changing group of families, individuals and couples. At the moment we are packing about 35 – 40 food parcels each week and delivering them locally.
Foodbanks and larders like ours should not be needed, but they are! Covid has made it worse, and families locally have lost jobs, been made redundant, had hours cut, and their income reduced. Illness, disabilities and family difficulties can affect ability to earn.
Bills pile up and debt can grow alarmingly fast. The wait for benefits is long, and not many of us have savings when we get to this point. I believe that the government needs to think again about how it supports people in this position, and change its attitude of considering people as lazy or scrounging first rather than in genuine need. One of our mums explained how ashamed she had felt when trying to explain that she needed food for her family. It wasn’t her fault, as she had lost her job due to Covid seasonal work being closed, and had 3 children to support.
Each of our families have different reasons for needing help. some need it permanently and some only need it because they have hit hard times and fallen into temporary debt. Universal Credit is a disaster, and one of our single dad’s has waited weeks for it to start, using his last savings to survive, despite being disabled, and having two children. He told me how hard it was to pay rent, bills, and buy things for the children’s school needs. The food the larder has provided has been a help, so that he has some money for bills.
That is one of the reasons why I am standing as a Labour Candidate in these elections – I want to see positive change in support for families and individuals, and change starts with small steps, even someone like me getting voted onto the local council.
Labour’s Cllr Marina Asvachin (Wonford and St Loyes), responding to Devon County Council’s (DCC) Cabinet Member for Adult Health and Social Care’s statement Devon’s care workers deserve to be ‘recognised and better paid’ – News centre (devonnewscentre.info), said ” The Labour Group on the Council has been pressing for recognition and better pay for care workers consistently over the last 4 years. Labour has always recognised that care workers in this Country are underpaid, overworked and undervalued. This job is still seen by many as unimportant and even beneath them. The Covid-19 Pandemic has made everyone (even the Tories), sit up and realise, that without the hard work and dedication of these workers, our society would be a much worse place. I’m really pleased that the Conservative cabinet of the council has finally listened.” Cllr Asvachin, a Senior Medical Technologist at the Exeter RD&E, is a member of DCC’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee.
Even before Covid-19 the number of people needing the food bank in Exeter was rising – which as one of the Devon County councillors representing Exeter was of a significant concern. Then Covid-19 hit. With people isolating and others losing income there was a huge need to support them. Locally city and county councillors were doing their best to support the community and charity efforts to provide food to those who needed it. Other councillors and I were doing much to support the community and charities which provided food for those who needed it, but I had a sense that there was not enough strategic planning. What support there was emerged organically, reacting to need – after a bit of asking around I found out that Devon County Council did not have a Food Strategy policy.
At around the same time I became aware of the Co-op Party’s Food Justice campaign. Of course, I knew other councillors that were members, and being someone with co-operative views, I felt it was time I joined them and became a member. I wasn’t at the time expecting my fellow County Councillor Hilary Ackland to ask me at my first Co-op Party meeting what I was planning to do as a councillor to demonstrate my co-operative principles! Thinking quickly on my feet, I explained that I was considering putting the Co-operative Party’s Food Justice Motion to the next Full Council meeting in October.
I researched the topic thoroughly. Hilary kindly guided me to the Co-op Party zoom session on Food justice and encouraged me to contact Cllr Jack Abbott from Suffolk County Council who had taken a motion to council in an authority like ours where the Conservative party are the majority. With advice from Jack and the Co-op Party’s staff I went about tailoring the motion and set about winning over councillors from the ruling Conservative Group. With statistics from council officers to back my case, I persuaded the Leader of the Conservative Council of my good intentions and that the proposal for a lead member and a food partnership was a genuine one and that I did not seek to score political points on this issue – and that I would be happy to accept reasonable amendments or for Cabinet to consider the issue.
Although pleased that the motion was referred to Cabinet in October, I was also a little sceptical that we would see a positive outcome. When the word came back that it would be possible to find common ground at the December Council meeting and agree an amended motion which retained much of what we wanted I was delighted. With over 40 Conservative Councillors and just 7 Labour ones on Devon County Council it is a challenging and at times extremely frustrating political environment. I’m thrilled that we’ve managed to get political agreement and that Devon Council has made a significant step forwards to tackling food insecurity with commitments to a lead member for food insecurity and support a working group to consider a Devon Food Partnership and a food resilience strategy for the County. It was a genuinely co-operative endeavour which I could have only done with support from my fellow co-operators in my own council, Cllr Jack Abbott from Suffolk Labour Group, and from Co-op Party itself.