Essex Conservatives reject call to expand free school meals

July 13, 2022 11:38 AM
Originally published by Essex Liberal Democrats

Marie Goldman speaking in the council chamber at Essex CC

A plea was made for all children in families receiving Universal Credit to receive free school meals. This was called for by Liberal Democrats on Essex County Council on 12 July but was rejected by the Conservatives.

Lib Dem councillors pointed out that, since the Free School Meals policy was introduced (seven years ago by the Liberal Democrats in Government), the Conservatives have increased funding per pupil from £2.30 to just £2.34 - an increase of 1.3% compared to inflation of 7%. As a result, children in the Essex County Council area have lost the equivalent of £1,171,603 - more than any other area in the country. Had funding increased with inflation, it would currently stand at, at least £2.46 per pupil. This funding cut has left Essex schools covering the extra cost by spending less on textbooks and teachers.

Lib Dem and Labour councillors backed a motion to the council calling upon the Leader to write to the Prime Minister as a matter of urgency asking him to implement plans to extend free school meals to all of those in families who receive Universal Credit.

The Conservatives deleted this proposal and tabled a self-congratulatory motion removing all reference to children and adding off-topic comments.

Speaking in the debate, Cllr Marie Goldman (Lib Dem, Chelmsford Central) said, "In a motion about feeding hungry children, the Conservatives talk about helping adults. In a motion about feeding hungry children, the Conservatives slap themselves on the back for helping pensioners. In a motion about feeding hungry children, the Conservatives congratulate themselves for providing washing machines."

Watch Cllr Goldman's speech: