Backlash After Tory MP Lee Anderson Criticises Nurses Using Food Banks

Lee Anderson, the Tory MP elected in 2019 for the Red Wall seat of Ashfield.
Lee Anderson, the Tory MP elected in 2019 for the Red Wall seat of Ashfield.

Lee Anderson, the Tory MP elected in 2019 for the Red Wall seat of Ashfield.

A Tory MP has sparked a backlash after he claimed nurses using food banks had “something wrong” with their own finances.

Lee Anderson suggested anyone earning £30,000 a year who needed to use a food bank was not managing their money properly.

He made the comments when asked about striking nurses who have had to resort to food banks to get by during the cost of living crisis.

The Ashfield MP, whose basic salary is £84,144, told Times Radio: “I heard some nonsense a few weeks back that nurses were actually stealing food off patients’ plates. I don’t believe it.

“Anybody earning 30 odd grand a year, which most nurses are, using food banks, then they’ve got something wrong with their own finances.”

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It follows a survey that found a quarter of hospitals had set up food banks for nurses as the cost of living crisis led to an “exodus” of NHS staff to better-paid jobs in supermarkets and hospitality.

The poll of 150 hospital chief executives, by NHS Providers, revealed 27 per cent had set up food banks to support staff.

A spokesperson for the Royal College of Nursing told HuffPost UK: “Comments like this show a total disconnect with the reality for the tens of thousands of nurses who have been forced out in the cold onto picket lines fighting for fair pay.

“These comments will only embolden those who will do the same again in January after a decade of real terms pay cuts has left them effectively working one day a week for free.

“The prime minister and health secretary can fix this now by agreeing to talks about pay instead of the continued unhelpful rhetoric.”

Who Is Lee Anderson MP?

Anderson is a former coal miner who was a Labour councillor in Ashfield before he defected to the Conservative Party in 2018 and went on to serve as a Tory councillor in Mansfield.

He was voted backbencher of the year in a poll by influential political website Conservative Home.

The website described him as having “blunt views” on Brexit, travellers and poverty.

Earlier this year he said a lot of people only use food banks because they “can’t cook a meal from scratch” and “cannot budget”.

Speaking in the Commons he invited other MPs to come to a food bank in his constituency.

Last year he refused to watch any England team matches at the Euros in protest against players taking the knee.

Despite his comments about budgeting, earlier this year it emerged Anderson claimed £15,823.44 more than the average MP in business expenses.

Anderson claimed £219,703.44 in business costs from 2020 to 2021, according to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority [IPSA].

This compared to the average of £203,880 claimed by MPs for their office, staffing, accommodation, travel and subsistence.

Anderson said subsequently that the high business costs he claimed last year were to “pay my staff wages”.

He told TalkTV: “That’s to pay my staff wages. If I didn’t pay my staff any wages, they would be using a food bank.”

Jonathan Brash Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Hartlepool commented: “Says the man who earns 80 odd grand a year plus expenses.

“The Conservative strategy for explaining the state of our country is to blame nurses, blame Putin, blame anyone but themselves. They’re petulant children no longer fit to govern.”

Political commentator Marina Purkiss suggested he had not done “the maths” and pointed to rent, mortgages, energy bills, childcare costs, travel and food shopping.

Another Twitter user said: “Complete lack of understanding of the financial pressures on real households - 30k for a single person equates to c24k after tax which doesn’t cover rent in London (and lots of other places) before energy and food costs or those related to travelling to work.”

Rally and march from UCLH, Euston road in solidarity with the nurses strike and the NHS.
Rally and march from UCLH, Euston road in solidarity with the nurses strike and the NHS.

Rally and march from UCLH, Euston road in solidarity with the nurses strike and the NHS.

Education secretary Gillian Keegan recently suggested that nurses needing to use food banks were doing so because of a broken “relationship or boiler”.

Nurses are set to go on strike again on 18 and 19 January in England unless pay talks are opened.

Health secretary Steve Barclay said he was “disappointed” by the decision to take further strike action. He said meeting unions’ pay demands would mean money being taken away from frontline services, causing delays to patients’ treatment.

“Strikes are in no one’s best interest, least of all patients, and I urge unions to reconsider further strike action before walkouts have a worse impact on patients,” he added.

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