A CHARITY has been refused grant money for food because of suspicions the service is being abused by people who do not need it.

Cirencester town councillors were in debate at their last meeting over deciding whether to give grant money to local charity Signpost.

Signpost is a Christian charity set up by husband and wife Graham and Juliette Harris. Run entirely by volunteers, the small organisation provides meals for the homeless and vulnerable. It also allows families in financial trouble to take day trips to places like Bristol Zoo or Weston-super-Mare.

The charity applied to the town council for a grant of £320 to help with the cost of hot meals and travel expenses.

Yet, at their meeting, the council appeared to be split down the middle, with some members not happy to donate money for hot food.

The council instead donated £368 to Signpost as a contribution towards summer outings for families.

Several councillors were not in favour of providing the charity with money for food, believing that some of the meals went to people who did not need them.

Cllr Roly Hughes said he often saw people “eating chips” and “drinking beer” at pubs in town but who would also claim poverty at the end of the week by turning to Signpost for help.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Hughes said: “It just makes my blood boil.”

Speaking after the meeting, Chief executive of the council Andrew Tubb said it was important, as public money, that the funding should go towards something specific, which is why the council provided money to go towards a summer trip for children and their families.

"Officers have decided to provide support and assistance in seeking to sustain this valuable service for the homeless and vulnerable," said Mr Tubb.

"The Town Council recognise the vital work undertaken by Cirencester Signpost who, without prejudice, are seeking to meet real needs of people within our community."

Volunteers at Signpost have said they know nothing about the claims.

“We never turn anyone away,” Graham said. “If people are scrounging then that is something we do not judge them for. It’s all about faith.

“A lot of the people who come to us have their guard up and we try to gain their trust. If they are hungry, we feed them first. We do not judge them. Once they trust us, we try to help them.”

Set up initially to provide homeless people with hot meals and support, Signpost now also caters for people with mental health problems, drug or alcohol related issues and financial problems.

“Our core focus will always be those who are homeless,” Graham added. “We are not experts but we signpost people to where they can get help.”