There are many people who look at the lovely surroundings of the wonderful county of Monmouthshire and assume that it must be a wealthy area in which to live.

The stark truth is that we have biggest income gap in the whole of Wales.

True there are residents who are comfortably off, just like every other county in Britain. But we also have significant areas of poverty and deprivation, again like everywhere else.

And the latest figures on the wealth gap in Britain from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, published just over a week ago highlights the true and frightening extent of poverty in the UK overall. It makes grim, shameful reading.

And with inflation still galloping away, things are only getting worse. As every household knows, the official inflation rate does not reflect what is really happening in our high streets and in our homes.

The food which you buy has gone up in price by double figures and keeps rising. The cost of heating your home, keeping warm, fuelling your car – if you have one – or using the train has gone sky high.

Sadly, that means that many more people than ever are turning to the food banks and community fridges which we are supporting, liaising with our wonderful, generous community groups. We have made it a priority to work with others because none of us can go it alone. Our authority cannot; support groups cannot.

Official figures show that three quarters of those people referred to food banks in Wales have incomes that leave them unable to afford the cost of essentials or which drive them into unmanageable debt.

To make matters even worse, in many cases it is our children who are suffering; children who will never be at their best in education while they are hungry and under-nourished.

You will all know of the horrendous squeeze which has been put on local authority budgets because of the divisive, warped priorities of our UK government. It means that in Monmouthshire, as elsewhere, we are really stretched to provide the support we should be offering our residents. But the wealth gap is extreme and growing.

Nevertheless, we have implemented initiatives to address inherent unfairness. As examples, there’s a reduction in council tax for nearly one-third of our residents and even more provision of free school meals for our children.

Everyone can access the "Money Matters" feature on our website for guidance, advice and information.

It is something - but I am the first to recognise there is so much more we could be doing if only…