Rotherham Council urge the government to introduce free school meals for all primary school pupils

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The council decided to carry a motion and send a letter to the Education Secretary and urge the government to introduce free school meals for young children – with the Rotherham Conservatives voted against it.

During last week’s full council meeting at Rotherham town hall, the chamber debated the matter of free school meals for all pupils in primary schools.

In the agenda, the council stated: “There is no disputing the benefits of free school meals provided to those currently entitled, for many it is the only hot nutritious meal they have in a school day.

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“A quality school meal helps improve children’s concentration and behaviour during lessons and can have an effect on improving school attendance, academic performance and not least on children’s health.”

Rotherham Town Hall.Rotherham Town Hall.
Rotherham Town Hall.

They also added that one in three school-aged children in England living in poverty missed out on free school meals – mainly due to not meeting the eligibility requirements.

Cllr Elliott (Independent) said his motion was not “in any way a criticism of any mainstream political party”, it was to reinforce the campaign.

Cllr Emma Hoddinott (Labour) said she didn’t agree they shouldn’t be criticising the national government.

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She said: “It’s absolutely shameful that we’re talking about kids and how they can be fed and making sure you get good nutritional food in the bellies.

“We are really suffering from a failed economic policy and food inflation at their nearly 45-year high.”

From the Liberal Democrats, Cllr Charlotte Carter said they were supporting the motion and said they were “dismayed at the number of vulnerable children still going hungry in schools”.

She added: “The situation got significantly worse under the Conservative government.

“It’s an absolute disgrace.

“The eligibility criteria, the threshold – it’s shocking.”

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The motion was voted for by the chamber – however, the majority of the Conservative group voted against it.

After the meeting, Cllr Simon Ball, the leader of the opposition at RMBC, told the Local Democracy Service: “Alexander Stafford (the Rother Valley MP) and the Government supported a more targeted approach to provide extra support to those that need it. That support remains in place today.

“The free school meal vouchers that Rotherham children receive during the school meals are provided by the Household Support Fund – millions of pounds of money given to the local authority to target support at those families that need it the most.

“We, as the Rotherham Conservative group, mirror this approach, as it’s the fairest way to get meals to the children that need it the most.

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“To help people of the borough it would be a better approach from the Labour group not to put up social housing rents and council tax like they have this year so that people get to keep more money in their pockets.”