Bridgwater Labour councillors have written angrily to their Member of Parliament Ian Liddell-Grainger following his vote last week to reject the extension of free school meals. In a letter signed by all 14 Town, District and County councillors representing Bridgwater seats they accuse him of being ‘disingenuous’ in his response and ask him if he now regrets his decision. The public backlash against the Tory vote has led to Conservative MPs being banned from local pubs and shops, others saying they want a revote so that they can change their minds and local councils being left to pick up the bill from scant resources. The Tory vote has been compounded by the fact that MPs already have their own meals subsidised and many Conservative voters and members now increasingly worried about the drift of the party which they have supported well off the radar to the far right.
The Labour Letter
Bridgwater Labour Councillors Unity Rooms, Clare Street, Bridgwater, Somerset TA63BL Email; email@example.com Leader Cllr Brian Smedley Deputy Leader Cllr Kathy Pearce
EXTENSION OF FREE SCHOOL MEALS
Dear Mr Liddell-Grainger,
As elected representatives of our local community, we write to express our astonishment, and anger at your refusal to consider the needs of school children in your constituency, by voting against the proposal for government provision of free school meals through the holidays, until Easter 2021.
Your claim, in this week’s Bridgwater Mercury, that you voted against the extension because it was “open-ended”, is disingenuous, to say the least. Everyone else is aware that the proposal was to extend the provision until Easter 2021. Perhaps you did not take time to read the proposal carefully.
If, on reflection, you accept that the proposal was not open-ended, will you now be honest enough to say that you regret the decision, or at least that it was mistaken
You suggest that people in need should approach you as individuals, in order for you to “do whatever I can to assist them”. As a member of the government you should be encouraging the building and maintenance of a system which meets the needs of society. You should not, instead, be setting yourself up as an adjudicator of the “deserving poor”.
Are you unaware of the growing levels of household poverty in England, which force so many families to seek help? Around 1.4 million school students in England currently qualify for free school meals. This means that they belong to families with an income of £ 7,400 a year, after tax.
You enjoy a salary of at least £80,000 a year, soon to be increased. That also includes expenses and generous food and alcohol subsidies in the House of Commons.
Meanwhile, people in need are desperately trying to feed their families on fluctuating wages produced by precarious work, or on unemployment benefits pitched at the lowest level for survival.
We know of Bridgwater families where parents go without meals in order to feed their children. Can you even begin to imagine that?
Councils across Somerset are now striving to meet the need in their localities, but they are already cash-strapped, due to year-on-year reductions in government funding, in the name of austerity.
Thank goodness for local people and small businesses, who have rallied round to provide food and assistance, in the wake of your government’s betrayal.
You have deliberately put saving a relatively small amount of money before the welfare needs of children. Your vote was a callous betrayal of hundreds of thousands of poor families.
Do you still consider yourself a caring, one-nation Conservative?
Bridgwater Group of Labour Councillors
Cllr Alexia Bartlett Cllr Hilary Bruce Cllr Glen Burrows Cllr Julie Cordiner Cllr Li Gibson Cllr Alex Glassford Cllr Graham Granter Cllr Tony Heywood Cllr Liz Leavy Cllr Mick Lerry Cllr Dave Loveridge Cllr Kathy Pearce Cllr Leigh Redman Cllr Brian Smedley