Buckingham Constituency Labour Party have called on Buckinghamshire Council to do more to help families whose children are eligible for free school meals. This came after the Tory-run council belatedly urged vulnerable families to call its ‘Helping Hand’ hotline.
“Half-way through half-term week and we have finally heard from the council. But this is too little, too late,” said Maxine Myatt, chair of Buckingham Constituency Labour Party.
“The council has misread the public mood over this. Their proposals seem to be over-reliant on the fantastic local response from volunteers and charities (especially in Buckingham itself) when there should have been help from the council from the start.
“Four thousand families who need this help will find it difficult to access. Schools should have been given the information before the start of half-term so that parents could plan for this week.
“Many parents have found themselves out of work or on reduced wages due to the pandemic and in need of assistance. It’s been great to see local businesses and volunteers respond to the call for help and we thank them for this. However, like the government, the council should have seen this coming.
“With Christmas just weeks away, we need effective leadership and we need it now. The public will expect much better planning in place for the Christmas holidays.”
Last Wednesday the Conservatives rejected a Labour parliamentary motion that would have seen free school meals extended over the half-term holidays. Labour’s measure would have benefitted over 1.4 million children and their families, including 8,000 children in Buckinghamshire.
The intervention comes as Labour increases the pressure on the Conservatives to make tackling child poverty a national priority. The last Labour government set clear targets to end child poverty by 2020, but in the last year it has risen, with projections that it will continue to rise as a result of the pandemic.