A Tory councillor has provoked a Twitter backlash after claiming that food banks are only visited by “those with drug, alcohol and mental health problems”.
Mark Winn, who is also a civil servant with the Ministry of Defence and until recently held an appointment on Buckinghamshire council’s health scrutiny committee, hit out at what he called “the BBC doing Labour’s bidding” after watching an episode of Casualty on Saturday night.
The Aylesbury councillor was apparently infuriated by a storyline involving a young mother who, contrary to initial suspicions of drug abuse, is actually suffering from malnutrition.
When her son is injured while crossing the road, nurse Charlie Fairhead (played by Derek Thompson) tells her: “You’re not a bad mother, it’s the system that’s wrong, it’s unforgiveable.”
Some viewers commended the broadcaster for tackling the issue – equality activist Merry Cross tweeted: “Well done Casualty scriptwriters for highlighting the evil of benefit sanctions in last night's show. BBC fiction better than their news!”
In pictures: Food banks
In pictures: Food banks
1/4 Rising numbers using foodbanks under the Coalition
2/4 Food poverty
Almost a million people have used foodbanks in the last year
3/4 Food poverty scandal
Food bank operators report that people in low-paid work are turning up during their lunch breaks seeking help
Susannah Ireland/The Independent
4/4 The BNP have set up their own foodbanks
Nick Griffin tweeted: “For the avoidance of doubt, our BNP food banks are for indigenous Brits only. 'Minorities' all have their own (taxpayer-funded) charities.”
But Mr Winn criticised the programme as “propaganda on foodbanks” and “rubbish”, writing on Twitter: “The people visiting food banks are those with drug, alcohol + mental health problems.”
The comment was picked up by the Political Scrapbook blog, which prompted others on Twitter to respond to the councillor.
Daniel Holland wrote: “Are you serious? People visiting food banks are the most vulnerable in society – you should be ashamed of your attitude!”
@CllrMarkwinn are you serious? People visiting food banks are the most vulnerable in society - you should be ashamed of your attitude!— Daniel Holland (@dholland_TSA) January 4, 2015
CllrMarkwinn https://t.co/ZfPTuIXb2W” hideous on do many levels & yet totally unsurprising from a tory— lyttle green (@youshouldsee) January 4, 2015
Lyttle Green called it “hideous on so many levels and totally unsurprising from a Tory”, while Kathryn said: “Also, even if they were, so what? Widespread addiction is a good indicator something is wrong with society.”
Mr Winn has since deleted the tweet and, after the criticism continued, suspended his account altogether.
Speaking to The Independent, the councillor confirmed he had deleted his Twitter account following a "politically-motivated campaign" of "abuse" against him.
In a statement, Mr Winn said: "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 will be privately visiting a local food bank in the next couple of weeks to see for myself the work they do."