Tory councillor Mark Winn says food banks are only used by 'those with drug, alcohol and mental health problems'

Civil servant and former Bucks health committee member deletes Twitter account following online backlash

Mark Winn, as pictured on the Aylesbury Vale council website
Mark Winn, as pictured on the Aylesbury Vale council website

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!”

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.”

@tjathurman Also, even if they were, so what? Widespread addiction is a good indicator something is wrong with society. @CllrMarkwinn

— artsyhonker/Kathryn (@artsyhonker) January 4, 2015

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."

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