Scaremongering claim against Labour petition on free school meals

Labour's petitionLabour's petition
Labour's petition
LABOUR has been accused of scaremongering over a petition which appears to suggest free school meals vouchers could be axed this Christmas.

The party is calling on the Conservative government not to get rid of the Household Support Fund, which helps feed up to 12,000 of the borough’s youngsters.

But while vouchers are already confirmed until the end of Easter for pupils in Rotherham, Labour’s petition is called: “Don’t cut free school meals for children in Rotherham this Christmas.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Cllr Simon Ball, Conservative group leader on Rotherham Council, said: “To be telling people that support is being removed this Christmas is wrong. Very wrong.

“Bizarrely, it is the Labour council which administers the Household Support Fund, which is being used to provide these vouchers over Christmas and next Easter.

“This money is secure. The DWP, as they do each year, are now considering the further extension of the Household Support Fund.”

He added: “On top of this, the Holiday, Activities and Food programme which makes free places available to free school meals children during the holiday periods has funding in place until 2025.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Cllr Michael Bennett-Sylvester, independent, said a parent had contacted him panicking that they would not receive support this Christmas.

He added: “I believe that the way the petition is worded is deliberately designed to be inflammatory and has at least in one case I’ve experienced caused alarm.

“There are of course questions to be asked of the government and its failure to confirm ongoing support for this programme in the autumn statement but this is not the way.”

Cllr Bennett-Sylvester wrote to Jake Richards, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Rother Valley, asking him to take down the petition and revise its wording.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Richards noted the concerns but said: “I will not apologise for campaigning against the government’s cuts that will affect 12,000 of the most vulnerable children in Rotherham.

“After 13 years of Tory government, child poverty is at 30 per cent in Rother Valley.

“This week, I’ve spoken to families who are aware of the changes coming into force next year and are having to cut back this Christmas.

“It’s a shame the Tory MP seems to think because vouchers are being offered over the coming weeks, it is okay for children to go hungry next year.”