Harpenden African charity backs patron MP Afolami

Harpenden Spotlight on Africa counts MP Bim Afolami as its patron.

Harpenden Spotlight on Africa counts MP Bim Afolami as its patron. - Credit: HSoA

A Harpenden charity which fundraises to provide education, health, clean water, and economic development to slum communities in Uganda has given its full backing to the town's MP despite him voting in favour of cutting foreign aid.

MPs voted to cut the foreign aid budget by £4 billion - a reduction from 0.7% to 0.5% of our country's GDP - in a narrow Commons vote which saw 24 Conservative MPs rebelling against the government.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told concerned MPs that the cut would only be temporary until Britain has begun to recover from the economic woes of the pandemic.

Harpenden MP Bim Afolami, who voted in favour of the cut, is the patron of Harpenden Spotlight on Africa, a development charity striving to lift a slum community in Mbale out of extreme poverty.

Harpenden MP Bim Afolami voted in favour of cuts to foreign aid.

Harpenden MP Bim Afolami voted in favour of cuts to foreign aid. - Credit: Bim Afolami's office

On his website, he describes himself as being extremely proud to be the charity's patron, adding: "I had the pleasure of visiting this community in rural Uganda, and seeing first hand the impressive impact that this local charity has."

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Following the vote on cutting foreign aid, Mr Afolami told the Herts Ad: "This vote was extremely difficult. The UK’s contributions to overseas aid have surpassed that of all major economies with the 0.7 per cent GDP commitment enshrined in law by a previous Conservative government.

"This temporary reduction in overseas aid spending to 0.5 per cent is, of course, due to an understandable review of our fiscal responsibilities following the pandemic and the need to find a balance that enables us to support the most vulnerable both at home and abroad.

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"We have a responsibility to our citizens to ensure that national debt levels come under control as quickly as possible, which will strengthen our economy and enable the UK renew its commitment of 0.7 per cent as swiftly as we can.

"The Chancellor has promised those of us who voted for this temporary measure that he will identify how we can improve the targeting of our aid spending to make our contributions go further. I have emphasised to the Government - both publicly and privately - the importance of ensuring that funding remains available for small, high-impact charities.”

Dr Bethan Rees, chair of Harpenden Spotlight on Africa, gave the MP their full support despite the vote: "We are very fortunate to have Bim Afolami MP as the patron of Harpenden Spotlight on Africa.

"Bim has been a tireless campaigner for our charity ever since he became our MP and patron, and has even taken the time to visit our projects in Uganda personally. He has a true heart for development work in Africa, and is one of our strongest fundraisers locally.

"The cut in foreign aid is a national political issue which is hugely complicated due to the COVID-19 pandemic."

Harpenden resident and political activist Richard Scott said: "It came as no surprise to anyone who has followed the voting record of Bim Afolami to see him break his 2019 election manifesto commitment, and vote with the Government to reduce UK foreign aid from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP. 

"In addition, his vote was also a public and flagrant betrayal of Harpenden Spotlight on Africa, a highly-regarded local charity who trusted Mr Afolami as one of their patrons.

A Harpenden Spotlight on Africa immunisation clinic in Uganda

A Harpenden Spotlight on Africa immunisation clinic in Uganda - Credit: Harpenden Spotlight on Africa

"Mr Afolami claimed in the Commons that this decision was one of "competing political choices". What nonsense. The Government has clearly found money throughout the pandemic to award large Government contracts to companies connected to Conservative party donors and officials.

"Perhaps if the countries and charities benefiting from UK Aid had been wise enough earlier to donate to the Conservative Party, this cut would never have been introduced?

"However, his decision to put his career and party interests first (yet again) should leave no one in Hitchin and Harpenden in any doubt where his loyalties truly lie. The next General Election cannot come quickly enough."

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