Doncaster mayor says council will step in to offer free school meals

Doncaster Council will foot the bill for free school meals over half-term after the Government voted down the measure in the House of Commons.
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Labour’s Doncaster mayor Ros Jones called the defeat ‘shameful’ and said the council would step in to provide meals.

Some 9,618 children are eligible and if the £15 voucher scheme is replicated, it will cost the council £144,270.

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The move comes after Labour put forward a motion in the House of Commons calling for 1.4 million disadvantaged children in England to be given £15-a-week food vouchers during holidays until Easter 2021.

Footballer Marcus Rashford. By Martin Rickett/PA WireFootballer Marcus Rashford. By Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Footballer Marcus Rashford. By Martin Rickett/PA Wire

It was defeated after a Conservative majority, including Don Valley Tory MP Nick Fletcher, voted against the motion.

He said Government had given an additional £20 a week for people receiving Universal Credit which had helped 5.6 million and ‘ensures that families can get by without having to rely on subsidised meals over the Christmas’.

Mayor Jones said: “After the shameful vote in parliament on Wednesday not to provide free school meals to young people over half-term, I have decided that Doncaster Council will step in and support those who are most in need with a food voucher.

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“These will be administered by individual schools and paid for by the local authority.

“This is not party politics, it's just the right thing to do."

Labour’s Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband voted for the motion to continue free school meals for disadvantaged children.

Labour Doncaster Central MP Rosie Winterton could not vote as she chaired the parliamentary debate through her role as deputy speaker.

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Figures show that Doncaster has 9,618 children eligible for free school meals. Sheffield has 20,435, Barnsley 7,783 and Rotherham 8,727.

The vote had the support of Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford after a campaign led by the striker put pressure on the Government in a previous U-turn earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, on Twitter Mr Rashford hailed a Sheffield pub after offering to supply packed lunches for children over half term.

Sheffield pub, The Handsworth Inn, took to social media to inform its customers that they would be putting together packed lunches to help ‘take some stress away from struggling parents.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.