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‘Scrooge officials ordered us to stop serving food to homeless’

Home cooking: But
Luke Bird and
Rebecca Hobby were
ordered to stop
serving hot drinks
and food to homeless
PICTURES: BNPS

COUNCIL chiefs and police have been accused of behaving like ‘Scrooge’ after threatening to shut down a food scheme for the homeless.

A small team of volunteers has been preparing meals at home then distributing them to people sleeping rough on the streets in Dorchester, Dorset, for the past four years.

They were shocked to be visited by a county council community safety officer, accompanied by a police constable, who warned them they were operating without permission and could be shut down, sued or even prosecuted.

Help For Homeless organiser Rebecca Hobby, who runs the scheme with Luke Bird, said: ‘They arrived just as we were handing out tea, coffee and food. They said we were putting ourselves at risk if someone got food poisoning.

‘I asked the lady if we could continue and she said, “No, we are shutting you down”. The police officer then told us that if we didn’t stop we could “end up in the dock”.’

Following a backlash from members of the public, the council and police have backtracked. Dorset Police has apologised for its officer’s remark, and the council has insisted it was keen only to ensure food hygiene standards were being met and denied any plans to shut down the service. Head of community and public protection Graham Duggan said the volunteers ‘are free to continue operating’.

■ FOOD delivery app Just Eat is to donate 50p from every order towards food for the needy on Black Friday. The company has teamed up with FoodCycle, which runs projects across the country serving three-course meals made from surplus supermarket and restaurant produce which would otherwise have gone to waste. Just Eat’s UK managing director Andrew Kenny said: ‘Just Eat and FoodCycle are firm believers in the power of food in bringing people together, especially at a time of year which can be difficult for those who are lonely or hungry.’