View from the chamber: Community springs into action following ‘disgraceful’ free school meals vote

Cllr Ihtesham Malik Afza is proud that Brent Council fed children when the government wouldn't.

Cllr Ihtesham Malik Afza is proud that Brent Council fed children when the government wouldn't. - Credit: Archant

“These children matter” – Marcus Rashford, MBE.

On Wednesday, October 21, this Tory government showed us what it truly is. On that day, 322 so-called representatives of their communities voted against providing food for hungry children over the school holidays.

That very same government which awarded Marcus Rashford an MBE for his work to ensure hungry children were fed, just 10 days later voted against hungry children being fed.

But the communities of this country, in one collective voice, responded and said: “We will not let this happen – we will not let our children go hungry.”

And organisation after organisation, restaurant after restaurant, café after café, sports club after sports club, local authority after local authority, across the length and breadth of the country, sprang into action.

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Like other local authorities, Brent Council stepped in where this government failed.

In making available £150,000 for those on free school meals, the council is providing vouchers to ensure they will be fed over the holiday. Because this is who we are; this is what we stand for.

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We are a borough of compassion. And we stand with the people; the hurting and the vulnerable. So a thank you to the council staff, our schools and teachers for the work to get this scheme implemented in such a short space of time.

Thank you also to our local MPs, Barry Gardiner, Dawn Butler and Tulip Siddiq – who all voted on the right side of history in the debate in the House of Commons.

True to form, the Tory response to the vote has been – like the vote itself – just as reprehensible.

From saying free school meals are effectively direct payments to “crack dens” and “brothels” (Ben Bradley), through to implying hospitality firms who were helping give out food should not expect “any further government support” (Selaine Saxby), they have no shame.

They could have just followed the lead of Harrow East MP Bob Blackman, whose silence has been deafening.

Just to let you know Bob, your silence won’t take away the shame of your disgraceful decision to vote down this scheme.

Remember, the young will never forget this. And neither will we!

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