COUNCIL officers have defended the decision to charge Chester and Ellesmere Port Foodbank thousands of pounds in rent.
Opposition councillors had urged Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) to scrap the £5,000 rent on the charity’s warehouse on Cheshire Oaks Industrial Estate.
Labour group leader Justin Madders wanted the charity to be offered free rental but the proposal was rejected by ruling Conservative councillors.
CWaC spokesman Ian Callister said the council had a responsibility to taxpayers to bring in revenue from commercial units.
He said the council had a good relationship with the foodbank with officers helping the charity reduce costs and council staff making regular donations.
“This authority has a good working relationship with the foodbank which is supported by the council and its staff through food donations,” he said.
“Initially the authority helped find the storage facility in Ellesmere Port and the rent was negotiated between the two organisations.
“Indeed, officers are currently involved in exploring alternative ways to help the foodbank in reducing overheads and costs.
“The provision of a storage facility has to balance the availability of suitable property with hygiene, safety and security. Both parties continue to work within these parameters.
“As has been explained to the charity when negotiating the rental, the authority is legally obliged to get the best value for its taxpayers from all its commercial property assets.”
However, Cllr Madders said the foodbank was becoming increasingly vital with more and more people struggling to put food on the table because of Government welfare reforms and spending cuts.
He said: “The council can and does let a number of valuable local organisations use their facilities free of charge. I fail to see why the foodbank is being treated differently.”
The foodbank was launched in November and collects donations of non-perishable food which are then given to people who cannot afford to feed themselves.
Labour group deputy leader Samantha Dixon said: “Many local people are donating to the foodbank because they want to help people.
“The fact the council is asking the foodbank to pay £5,000 is morally wrong.”