Labour Reacts to Latest Tory U-Turn: This time it’s ‘Free School Meals’

Empty plates adorn Bridgwater Tory Offices

The Tory government has made a remarkable climbdown in the face of widespread public hostility to their policies and will now spend over £400m to support poor children and their families in England. This came about as a result of a high profile public campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford, a motion in parliament which attracted cross-party support and action in the constituencies of Tory MPs who voted against the policy including the increasing appearance of empty plates at Tory party offices including here in Bridgwater.


Councillor Brian Smedley, Labour Leader “It’s another Tory Climbdown”

Bridgwater Labour Leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour, Westover) said “We wrote to our MP Ian Lidell-Grainger twice and each time received a robust defence of why he voted as he did. Literally a day after his second reply the Government have suddenly introduced a winter grant scheme, to be run by councils, which will provide support with food and bills, plus a holiday food and activities programme. This is a total climbdown by the Government and its quite likely that they didn’t bother telling our MP of their plans. Or maybe each other. Or maybe they had no plans and are making it up as they go along anyway.”

The Government, which had argued that Universal Credit was enough have now introduced a package of support, which includes a £170m ring-fenced fund which will be distributed through councils, with at least 80% earmarked for help with food and bills. This will run from the beginning of December until the end of March. The holiday food and activities programme will be expanded with a £220m investment to cover Easter, summer and Christmas in 2021. On top of that, there will also be a £16m cash boost for the nation’s food banks.

Labour members were quick to express their views

Cllr Kathy Pearce -“Should have been put in place weeks ago”

Cllr Kathy Pearce (Labour, Westover) said “At last! Excellent news but shame on the government that it needed a campaign initiated by Marcus Rashford along with the Labour Party to achieve what should have been put in place as a matter of course weeks ago.”

The vote in Parliament-demanded by the Labour Party, was defeated by 322 votes to 261, but some Tory MPs are now looking a bit foolish. Tories such as Robin Walker MP who voted against the free school meals and was subsequently outed for claiming £65 expenses for a book about childhood poverty or even Chancellor Rishi Sunak who’s ‘Eat out to help out’ scheme not only didn’t extend to ‘help kids eat to stop starving’ now looks like one of the biggest causes of spreading the virus during the summer months, now have at least their words to eat.

Cllr Li Gibson, “They now realise it’s a vote loser

Cllr Li Gibson (Labour, Eastover) added  “I think some credence for his years of working for the free/school dinners movement should also go to Jamie Oliver who has worked on this tirelessly. He has been trying to improve the standards and bring more nutrition equality into schools. The government probably gave way as they now realise it’s a vote loser. I expect they’re also worried now that Trump has been given the elbow “

Setting the Facts Straight-The TUC Report

Bridgwater’s MP, strangely (or not) asked for figures to support the assertion that there are some ‘3,000 children n the Bridgwater area in need’. Yet in a recent TUC report (which he could have read) it clearly addresses these points with statistics.

“The number of children growing up in poverty in working households has risen by 800,000 since 2010, according to new TUC analysis.

  • Number of children living below the breadline – despite being in a working family – has increased by 38% since decade began
  • London, East of England and West Midlands have suffered biggest increases
  • Government policies have driven majority of rise, says TUC
TUC report into child poverty

The number of children growing up in poverty in working households has risen by 800,000 since 2010, according to new TUC analysis published today (Monday).

The analysis reveals that child poverty in working families rose to 2.9 million in 2018 – an increase of 38% since the start of the decade.

In 2010, 1 in 5 (19%) children in working households were growing up in poverty. In 2018 this had increased to 1 in 4 (24%).

Government policies account for majority of rise in child poverty

The analysis shows that government policies account for the majority of the increase in-work poverty.

More than 485,000 children (in working households) have been pushed below the breadline as a direct result of the government’s in-work benefit cuts.

The TUC says that other key factors behind the rise in child poverty are:

  • Weak wage growth
  • The spread of insecure work
  • Population growth
  • The rise in the number of working households hasn’t been enough to lift families out of poverty

People Power

Cllr Leigh Redman “Local people stood up and supported those in need”

Cllr Leigh Redman (Labour, Hamp) said “I am so pleased to see People Power winning again. To see this fantastic announcement sneaked out while the government hoped we were looking in a different direction is another example of how out of touch this government is! To know that, if needed, children and families who qualify for free school meals or are just in need, will be able to seek formal support. During the last term break we saw business and individuals step up to support those in need, by providing lunch packs or free meals, because of these caring people families were able to get through a term break without going hungry. Lets be clear, not every parent or child struggles. But in these unprecedented times, there are families where the free school meal is the only substantial meal of the day. As more people are furloughed or made redundant or lose their jobs, there will be parents who have to make the decision to eat themselves of let their child eat. We were let down by our MP’s but local people stood up and supported those who needed it, more than a million people supported the online petition, I am so pleased that we were able to get yet another U turn out of the Government.”

The Scene Last Week Outside Tory Offices Bridgwater

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