After the Conservative Government refused to back Free School Meals in Parliament this week, Liberal Democrat run Sutton Council is stepping up to provide Free School Meals for local children during the holidays.
Local Councils are under huge financial pressure, with the Government only providing half the funding required to provide additional COVID-19 related services. However, the Liberal Democrats were determined to ensure no child went hungry and have been locked into discussions with Council officers since Friday. They have now found a way through.
Footballer Marcus Rashford spearheaded the campaign that brought national attention to children living in food poverty.
A crunch vote on the issue happened in Parliament last week, where local Conservative MPs Paul Scully (Sutton & Cheam) and Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) both refused to support Free School Meals.
I’ve been volunteering for @TrussellTrust Foodbanks every week since the pandemic.— Cllr Hina Bokhari 🔶 (@HinaBokhariLD) October 21, 2020
It’s scary how quickly you see the queues grow. I’ve seen children in the queues. I’ve seen their parents, grateful but embarrassed. It hurts to see this.
Let’s end #childfoodpoverty please. https://t.co/dmM3HpwObO
Paul Scully callously dismissed Free School Meals on live television, claiming “Children have been going hungry under a Labour government for years".
While Elliot Colburn has ignored constituents all week, who have been asking him why he didn’t support Free School Meals.
Now, with their backs against the wall, the Conservatives have tried to spin their way out of the situation by insisting Sutton Council uses its Local Authority Welfare Assistance Grant to provide Free School Meals.
The Tories know full well that this money has already been allocated to other voluntary organisations and food delivery efforts. They have five seats on the committee that oversees the spending, including the ex-Tory Opposition leader and the new Tory Opposition leader.
The Conservatives are playing politics with children’s lives and were prepared to let children go hungry to win it. Sutton Liberal Democrats will not let children go hungry.
Cllr Jenny Batt, Liberal Democrat-run Sutton Council's Lead Member for Education said:
‘’It is a basic human right that no child should go hungry. As a Lib Dem council, we are pleased to be able to step up when our Tory MPs stepped away. We are proud to support our families through these tough times.
”It is shameful that this Conservative Government has turned their back on vulnerable families in the middle of a global pandemic. Especially as they continue to subsidise their own meals. This Government must reset its priorities and put people first.
“Make no mistake. Local councils are under huge budgetary pressure because of COVID-19. Since beginning talks on Friday, it has been difficult to see how we could step in and provide this ourselves. But we have found a way. It is a disgrace the Tory Government could not.”