PLANS to make a food bank pay rent have left its supporters and users ‘shocked, surprised and horrified’.

Bromley Borough Food Bank has been allowed to use a shop rent free for three years as its premises where hard up people come for essential foodstuffs to help them survive.

But the council says from January it must pay rent, thought to be around £8,500 a year, for the property in Cotmandene Crescent, St Paul’s Cray.

It cannot afford this amount on its own so has had to ask nearby churches to pitch in to pay for it.

Food bank project manager Mary Beckingham said: “I have not found anybody that has not been shocked, surprised and horrified and that’s from people in the street, people from churches and the people that hold our vouchers; it’s across the board.

“As an organisation we give a lot and we are asking for one shop.

“We have four centres across the borough and only one of them is a shop.

“It’s not as though we are asking for funding for all of them.”

Mrs Beckingham added: “The food bank provides a very important essential service and support with all the problems that there are with unemployment and everything.

“There are still shops empty in the street so what was need for us to have to pay rent?

“I think the council needs to look at its priorities.

“It’s nice to have flowers round the roundabouts but perhaps they should be helping the people and feeding the people.”

The news about the rent came as a shock to people who have used the food bank, including Mark Thomas, from Orpington.

Mr Thomas says he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder after being discharged from the army and the food bank has been a lifeline for him when there have been benefit payment problems.

The 52-year-old said: “It has meant I can feed myself to be honest, without it I would have gone hungry.

“I understand councils have had their grants cut but for an essential service it seems a desperately unfair decision to make.

“I have emailed my local councillors to say I’m disgusted by the decision.”

A Bromley Council spokesman said: “We have supported the Food Bank with a rent free period of three years whilst it has established itself but we cannot go on with this arrangement indefinitely and simply cannot give rent free terms to each and every charity, regardless of how worthy their aims are.

“We are continuing to support the Food Bank which is why we have offered them a lease for premises in Cotmandene Crescent, which is their preferred location and not in our original thinking.

“I should point out businesses are interested in the same premises and that any rental income ultimately helps support the provision of our frontline services which are vital to so many residents, when the council continues to face unprecedented financial budgetary pressures over the coming years.”

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