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Southwark Labour to pay for Free School Meals this half term after government refuses

23 October 2020

Southwark’s Labour Council announced last night that it will fund free school meals this October half term. The decision follows an astonishing week where 322 Tory MPs voted against continuing school meals over half term, causing intense anxiety to families already struggling to make ends meet.

The pandemic-fuelled recession has seen a sharp increase in child poverty and without school dinners many children in Southwark would have been left to go hungry over the holidays. The government’s decision comes at a time when the Trussell Trust, Britain’s largest foodbank network, reported an 89% increase in the amount of food parcels sent out across the UK in April compared with the same time last year.

Southwark Labour councillors acted quickly following the vote on Tuesday, reallocating funding to meet the needs of this emergency response. With local authorities facing huge funding gaps already, Southwark Labour is now calling on the government to reconsider their decision in time for the Christmas holidays.
Free school meals for all primary school pupils has been a flagship policy for Southwark Labour since 2010 and this decision will help to ensure no child in the borough goes hungry over the holidays.

Southwark Council Leader Kieron Williams said:

“Free school meals have been a flagship policy for Southwark Labour since 2010 and now we are stepping up where government has failed and funding school meals this half term. This is a decision that central government should have made, instead of pushing the burden onto councils. At a time when families are facing additional hardship, we are doing all we can to keep Southwark families strong.”

Jasmine Ali, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Lead for Children, Young People and Schools, said:

“It’s a disgrace that Tory MPs have shut off free school meals to save money. We are joining forces with Marcus Rashford and other cash-strapped councils across London to demand that this government supports families through this dreadful pandemic and reinstates free school meals over Christmas.”


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