Gordon and the Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP have met with faith leaders from across the Fylde Coast to discuss the issues they are facing in their local communities.
Gordon’s Faith Forum which included leaders from the Christian, Catholic, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist communities met at Holy Trinity Church in South Shore – there they discussed the experiences they were witnessing particularly around food poverty, citing welfare changes and the sharp rise in benefit sanctioning as just one of the main causes.
Stephen, the Labour Party’s Faith Envoy also used the discussion to introduce the “Covenant for Engagement”, a set of principles that would better enable faith communities and local councils to work more effectively together.
Speaking after the forum, in which over 20 faith leaders attended, Gordon said: “I was pleased to have Stephen with us at the forum, so he could see and understand the long history that different faith groups have of working together in Blackpool and across the Fylde Coast.
“The scale of cuts from central government and the changes to welfare are having a big impact on our local communities. This is recognised by many of our local faith leaders, who are often the ones on the very front line in supporting and protecting some of our most vulnerable and poorest groups of people.”
Gordon explained that the Gazette’s recent story “Stealing to survive”, in which some people were resorting to shoplifting to enable them to get food on the table for their families was sadly echoed at last week’s forum.
He said: “It’s incredibly desperate and worrying to see reports of cases where people are resorting to shoplifting because they cannot afford to buy food for themselves or their families.
“When local government budgets are being slashed, it has the direct consequence on the services they are able to provide. Faith organisations can play an important role, as they have done in the past, proving to be highly effective in the delivery of local services.
“I am pleased to see and hear that this is already happening across Blackpool with different groups working together and responding to these terrible problems which are sadly coming an all bit too common.
“Blackpool Food Partnership is an excellent example of this, where different faith groups and organisations have come together to ensure some of our most vulnerable groups of people are supported and do not go hungry this winter.”