Liverpool spends £300,000 on free school meals despite budget crisis

The Mayor of Liverpool said he was “not prepared to stand by and watch” as he announced £300,000 worth of funding to provide free meals for children in the city.

The money comes despite a council budget crisis and soaring coronavirus cases in the city.

Liverpool City Council was among a number of local authorities that announced help for young people after Parliament rejected proposals to provide free meals to vulnerable children during the school holidays.

The Labour-led council is one of many struggling to cope with large budget deficits, many of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Joe Anderson told the PA news agency: “I am having budget meetings where I am struggling to find £20,000 in savings. But we had to find £300,000 to support 20,000 children in the city.

“I know what it’s like not to have food on the table… I know what it’s like to eat a jam butty for your tea. I know what it’s like. I have been there,

“I was brought up in poverty. I am not prepared to stand by and watch when I know families out there are really struggling, week in, week out for months now.”

The £15 supermarket vouchers will be distributed through children’s centres in the city from next Tuesday.

The Labour motion, prompted by a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford, was defeated in the Commons by 261 votes to 322.

Five Conservative MPs broke ranks to support the bid with one, Caroline Ansell, resigning from a Government role in protest at her party’s position

“They have got a Government that really doesn’t care and doesn’t understand,” Mr Anderson said.

He claimed it was “arrogance” that residents of the city were being treated in “such a distasteful way as to ignore our pleas and calls”.

Mr Anderson’s brother died of Covid-19 last week. He said: “There was 61 people who died last week, including Billy, my brother, from Covid in Liverpool. It’s heartbreaking.”

HEALTH Coronavirus
HEALTH Coronavirus

The city is currently under the highest level of coronavirus restrictions as the number of coronavirus patients rose above levels seen during the peak of the first wave.

Oldham Council, in Greater Manchester, will also be providing meals despite also being under Tier 3 restrictions.

They are two of a handful of councils to step up and support families during the holidays alongside dozens of pubs, cafes and restaurant.

Labour-led Hammersmith and Fulham Council will give every pupil in need free school meal vouchers, equivalent to a £3 Tesco meal deal per day.

Council leader Stephen Cowan said it was a “moral imperative” to ensure children get the food they need.

We're giving every pupil in need free meal vouchers over the half term break. That's to ensure 5,000 primary and secondary school pupils don't go hungry. Plus, we're delivering 600 breakfasts every morning to pupils. #ENDCHILDFOODPOVERTY

— H&F Council (@LBHF) October 22, 2020

Dozens of cafes, pubs and restaurants have also stepped up to provide free food for children in a campaign backed by Marcus Rashford, who was recently awarded an MBE after forcing a Government U-turn on free school meal vouchers over the summer holidays.

Mr Rashford said he was “blown away” by the offers of support and has been retweeting businesses offering free meals.

“Selflessness, kindness, togetherness, this is the England I know,” tweeted the Manchester United footballer.