Conservative Westminster Councillors – including Tony Devenish, the Assembly Member for West Central – have voted against a motion to provide free meals to children from disadvantaged households.
At a meeting of the Council on 11th November, Labour challenged the Conservatives to put party politics aside and to ensure that children are fed during school holidays. The motion aimed to guarantee to support the Free School Meal scheme through to Easter, no matter what the government decided. The cost to the Council would be £100,000.
This half term, many Councils in London and across the country chose to directly fund free school meals in the absence of central government support. Footballer Marcus Rashford had run a campaign that gathered enormous support and energy, urging the Government to step in and provide support to hungry children.
Because of the Government’s refusal to act, local Councils were left with no alternative but to step in and provide the support themselves. Councils of all political persuasions responded – from Conservative Kensington & Chelsea through to Labour councils like Camden and Hammersmith & Fulham. Westminster were one of the few Councils to turn a blind eye. Following the Marcus Rashford campaign, the Government announced a U-turn and agreed to fund free school meals up until Easter
Councillor Tim Roca, Labour Shadow Cabinet Member for Children’s Service, said:
“It is incredible that Westminster Conservative councillors voted down a motion that aimed to guarantee feeding hungry children this winter. There are over 6,000 Westminster children benefiting from free school meals in our city, with the number expected to rise. In the last half term break Westminster was one of a handful of London council’s that failed to support the voucher scheme.”