A CUMBRIAN MP has come under fire after claiming some of his constituents trade food parcels for drugs.

Workington MP Mark Jenkinson has agreed with fellow Tory member Ben Bradley in his remarks that free school meal vouchers handed out in Summer were traded for drugs.

In a post on Twitter, Mr Jenkinson said: “I know in my constituency that, as tiny a minority it might be, food parcels are sold or traded for drugs.

“And that’s the parcels, not vouchers, which have greater monetary value.”

He called those defrauding the support system, “a relatively miniscule number”.

Defending his comments, Conservative Mr Jenkinson told the News & Star: “It is a serious issue, it’s no surprise to anyone on the frontline that these things happen.”

He was one of the MPs to vote against the extension of free school meals through half-term last week.

“I grew up in a single parent household, these are my communities. We know people go hungry,” he said, adding that central Government is not best placed to tackle localised issues.

“What we’ve got wrong for years is specific interventions. Cumbria County Council has had more than £330m in Government support. They are best placed to deal with that. Borough councils have stepped up, they are the ones in the heart of the community.

“There are 1,909 families in my constituency eligible and claiming. All 1,909 are not in the same position.

"But not all of those families, if we’re being quite honest about it, have their children’s best interests at heart. We can’t walk around with our eyes closed.”

Mr Jenkinson believes the social media storm was brought on by an emotive issue.

“Nobody in this world would want to see a child starve, me included," he said. "It is really difficult for people to step back a little from the emotion.”

Former Labour leader of Allerdale Council Alan Smith said: “The community have turned around on this and said ‘if Boris and Jenkinson won’t provide the food, we’ll do it’, that’s how it is in west Cumbria. Workington man let us down but the common man has had to pick up the bill.

“This country can spend £190bn so far and they can’t spend 63 million on free school meals for kids?”

Deputy project manager for North Lakes Foodbank, Linda Macdonald, said: “We work very closely with our referral agencies who pay vouchers for us and we fully expect them to go to the right place. We make it clear on the vouchers that they are not for resale.”

She added that Covid-19 has posed its challenges to foodbanks and similar support services.

“They can only go on the information that the client gives them. You can’t read their body language over the phone.”

The foodbank has a protocol in place if they believe a client is defrauding the system, Linda said.

“We feed about 3,000 people here every year and across Allerdale and Copeland there are only about five or six people who we think might have defrauded the system.

"I have phoned agencies and said this person is going around please don’t give them any more vouchers. We are prepared to make those difficult decisions.

“We have volunteers working here, giving their time for nothing, they expect it to go to the right places.”

However, Linda added that agencies will first investigate the allegations that a client is selling their food parcels.