Free school meals: a letter from Councillor Lee Dillon

"This issue is of major concern to thousands of our residents. By acting now and securing the ability for families to feed themselves over Christmas your administration can make a huge difference."


23 October 2020

Dear Lynne,

I am writing to you as Leader of the Council to request that your administration provide the required funding to extend the ‘free school meal vouchers’ program into the Christmas holidays.

As you will be aware, we have 3,539 children within West Berkshire eligible for free school meals. Many of these children will be from families who are facing additional struggles in light of coronavirus. I believe we collectively breathed a sigh of relief when the Government announced they would cover the summer holidays and I am amazed that the Government can’t see the need to continue this scheme during the next extended school break.

The Government’s (and the three MPs that cover West Berkshire) failure to support the recent motion in Parliament now means that we are required to stand up and protect those that the Government will not. For West Berkshire Council to provide this vital service for those on the lowest incomes would cost approximately £53,000. Having consulted your Executive Director of Resource I am aware the general reserve of the council is currently above the minimum level, and so utilising this fund would not cause any additional budget pressures on existing services.

This issue is of major concern to thousands of our residents. By acting now and securing the ability for families to feed themselves over Christmas your administration can make a huge difference.

I hope that you will be able to call an emergency meeting of your Executive to approve this decision. To help inform debate on this subject my Group will also reserve the right to call an Extraordinary Meeting of Full Council on 10th November so that Council can debate how we support those most in need. However, I hope that you will be able to take early action now and provide much needed relief to many.

Best Wishes,

Lee

Cllr Lee Dillon
Leader of the Opposition

Lib Dem – Thatcham North East
West Berkshire Council