THE National Co-Leader of the Green Party met two new Mid Devon District Councillors during a visit to Devon on Thursday, July 7.

Carla Denyer met Sandford and Creedy ward councillors Helen Tuffin and Mark Jenkins plus various Tiverton community volunteers, during which a distressing picture of rural poverty in the district emerged. 

Speaking after her meeting in the Tiverton Community Orchard, Carla said: “Meeting Green Party Councillors, Helen Tuffin and Mark Jenkins and volunteers from the local food bank, it is clear that there is much hidden rural poverty in the district, especially among older people. 

“They may have less access to transport and so are less able to get to food banks and as a consequence, are left struggling.

"Very often, older people don’t have access to the internet so are unable to find out about what help might be available to them. 

"It was quite distressing to hear from Theresa Rooting, a volunteer at the Tiverton Community Fridge, who lives in one of the smaller villages in the district, recalling how last winter, she and a fellow group of villagers went round to older people trapped at home at risk of hypothermia, and gave them warm things to wrap themselves in.

"Villagers like Theresa are now trying to scrape money together to put on activities in the village for families who can't afford to go away on holiday.

"It's not only older people that are finding themselves in difficulties.

"Cllr Mark Jenkins is a carer and recounted to me how he had to help a single mum with no money, waiting for her Universal Credit to start, to get food and fuel vouchers, and a single man, again waiting for Universal Credit to come through, needed an emergency food package from the Food Bank because he had no food and no money to buy any." 

After learning that the local food bank run by CHAT (Churches Action Housing Team) gave out more food parcels in March than it had done in the whole of 2020 put together, Carla added: “This is where the government should take responsibility. Local councils should be able to help but after 13 years of austerity councils are running on thread-bare budgets.

“The government needs to fund councils properly to support the most vulnerable in society.

“It shouldn’t be down to charities to provide that social safety net, which in recent years has fallen away.” 

As well as Food Bank Volunteers, Carla Denyer also chatted with the COWS - Cullompton Open Swimmers group, which had just climbed out of the River Exe that runs behind the Tiverton Community Orchard, who related many a tale of stretches of local rivers where they found themselves swimming among filthy wet wipes, sanitary towels and other unsavoury objects from sewage outflows, as well as plastic and other fly-tipped objects. 

Sally Chapman, representing the recently formed "Friends of the River Exe”, spoke about the Festival of The River Exe, planned for World Rivers Days on September 24.