Walsall Council leader rejects apology call over food poverty comments
Demands for an apology over claims that people in Walsall are having children they can’t afford – which has caused a huge row about food poverty in the town – have been rejected.
Birmingham Labour MP Liam Byrne branded Walsall Council leader Mike Bird’s view that one of the causes of the rise in food bank use and hardship was that some families were having too many children as “insensitive”.
But Councillor Bird said an apology wasn’t necessary and said limiting children to what people could afford was a responsible view.
He challenged the Hodge Hill MP to give his input into a task force the authority is setting up to look at all the causes into food poverty in Walsall.
A notice of motion was passed at a full Walsall Council meeting on Monday which is aimed at tackling the issue. During the debate, Councillor Bird said families in parts of the borough struggle financially because they have four or five children.
After the story was published, some readers on social media criticised Councillor Bird for his comments. But a number of people also said they agreed that large families was a factor in causing poverty.
Mr Byrne tweeted: “People are turning to foodbanks because of poverty pay, not because of how many children they have.
“This is incredibly insensitive and just wrong. Mike Bird should apologise and @andy4wm (West Midlands Mayor Andy Street) should make it clear that he doesn’t support his views.”
But Councillor Bird said: “I don’t believe an apology is necessary and I’ve seen comments on social media in which many people agree.
“It is a responsible idea to try to limit the size of your family to your means.
“I was not having a go at any particular section of borough. What the report highlighted is there are pockets of poverty even in affluent areas such as Streetly.
“The increase in use of food backs is a multi-faceted issue and we are setting up the task force to find out the causes in Walsall.
“Yes, some people will use them because of low pay or having been made redundant.
“But it is not just about income. The size of families is a contributory factor. In other parts of the world, most notably China, they limited the number of children families could have to ensure the economy could support them.
“If Liam Byrne is an expert then we would welcome his input into the task force and what we are doing to get to the root cause in Walsall. Making political points is not what is needed.”