Single mum can’t afford to visit food bank because of Labour council’s new car tax

Birmingham: Clean Air Zone signs seen across the city

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Natasha Jones fears the new charge will plunge her family further into poverty as she visits the food bank up to twice a week for most of her groceries. She had her hours reduced as a carer in April 2020, when the day centres closed due to the pandemic.

Birmingham City Council introduced the Clean Air Zone charge on Tuesday in the city centre. Drivers of heavily polluting cars, taxis and vans now have to pay £8 per day to use roads within the city centre.

Critics say this will become “a tax burden for low-income families and workers” and Ms Jones feels it’ll hugely affect her, her 13-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son. They live in Lozells, Birmingham, outside the zone but the food bank is just inside it, in the Newtown area. 

Speaking to Birmingham Live, she said: “Money is very tight for me.

“I cannot afford to lose a penny. I have no savings and every penny is for my bills, debts, day-to-day life and looking after my children.

“Sometimes I use the food bank twice a week if needed.

“You would be astonished what you can squeeze out of £8. I can get milk for £1, the cheapest bread for 59p, tins, rice.

“I can spend £4 on salmon steaks and get two dinners for my family of three. I really have to stretch £8, I can’t afford to give it to the council.”

Ms Jones also takes two bags for a neighbour who has health problems and a package each for two elderly ladies who live opposite her.

She added: “There’s always someone out there who needs help. I want to give back.

“I really need to get to the food bank because then I can meal prep and there’s food for my family.”

Those who work at the Newtown food bank are also fearful the Clean Air Zone policy will impact other users.

The parcels, which contain essentials such as milk, cans, pasta, rice, snacks and nappies, are brought to the centre in a van which isn’t compliant to the new rules.

Its driver, community activist Desmond Jaddoo will be charged £8 each week.

He said: “We are talking about a minimum of £700 a year on charges and that’s taking resources out of food parcel provision.

“When I spoke to the council, I was told that we have to get a new van- we are a voluntary organisation.”

Ines Neves, who runs the food bank, said: “Some of the people drive to me and help me deliver to Handsworth, Hockley. I fear they will stop coming here because they will be charged.

“My fear is that we will not be able to provide food parcels for those who need it. The bags are heavy and we need cars. People are struggling a lot and they save money on food and they use that money to top up the gas and electric.

“I do this with all my heart. I like to help people. The struggle is real. It’s hard to see neighbours struggle with milk and bread.”

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson has said: “We’re encouraging everyone to check whether or not they will need to pay the daily fee. Around three out of four people should not need to pay but the way to check is by visiting www.brumbreathes.co.uk to use the online vehicle checker.

“The Council has also been sharing information about the zone with residents, businesses and other organisations in the city. But some individuals and organisations will require additional time to prepare.

“This is why we have introduced a range of exemptions and financial incentives, so that extra support is in place.”

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