A CIVIC chief is calling for action after the number of people using the food bank in Romsey almost doubled.

Cllr Alan Dowden is urging the government to look at Universal Credit again and is asking local authorities to support the town’s food bank.

Universal Credit is replacing six benefits, merging them into one payment.

But, as previously reported, delays in payments have been blamed for the increase in the number of people using the Romsey food bank.

It has been revealed that 1,215 people used the food bank between March 2017 and 2018 – 573 people more than the year before.

The most recent figures have not yet been released, but Romsey food bank manager Jo Topley said they have already seen an increase on last year.

Now Cllr Dowden said: “Universal Credit has caused a lot of people to get into debt and they have to keep paying their rent so they are denying themselves food.

“They have to look at the system again and make sure sufficient money is upfront for people so they don’t go into debt.”

Ms Topley also confirmed that for some children the school dinner is the only hot meal they have during the day.

She said she is now looking into opening the food bank five days a week rather than just on Wednesdays and Fridays.

But Cllr Dowden, who has donated £800 to the charity using a Hampshire County Council’s grant, is also urging local authorities to support the food bank.

He said: “I feel saddened that it has gone unnoticed until we have been contacted by Jo Topley and the churches in North Baddesley because it is an affluent area and this should not be happening.”

Earlier this month work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd has announced changes to Universal Credit and said the scheme must help everyone reach their full potential and ensure that work always pays.

Among the changes, she also announced that the government will not extend the two-child limit on Universal Credit for children born before April 2017 – which was due to come into place from February 2019. This change means that all children born before that date will continue to be supported by Universal Credit. The government said this will benefit around 15,000 families.

Romsey MP Caroline Nokes said: “I have long believed Universal Credit will be an improvement on the legacy benefit system, which trapped too many people in benefit dependency. However, with any major change there does need to be close examination during implementation . I welcome the work and pensions secretary’s commitment to look at policy changes to ensure those who need to use the system are treated fairly.”