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This week, our Melksham Independent News carries local MP Michelle Donelan’s statement explaining why she voted against the motion in the Commons to extend free school meals vouchers to the half-term and Christmas holidays. I believe Michelle has a background in Public Relations, so not surprisingly it reads quite convincingly . But let’s look at a it a little more closely.
Her phrase “the recent £63 million local authority welfare assistance fund” (that her generous government has given), is shall we say, a little misleading. This fund was given in July (“recent”?) and was intended to cover 12 weeks. Not much left now, then, let alone by Christmas.
She also justifies her vote by saying “that’s exactly why we have given so much unprecedented support to those in need” by “boosting the Universal Credit standard allowance and Working Tax Credit”. Hmmm, Michelle, have you forgotten that those were boosted back in March, to help with the extra hardship resulting from the pandemic, and your Government nevertheless recognised that free school meals were needed by those children during the summer holidays, and provided them? So, why not now?
Earlier, she took pains to allege that the Parliamentary Motion was proposed by the Opposition as a “political tool”. Please enlighten us, Michelle, as to why this matters? If children are likely to not have enough to eat, that is all that matters. Not who does, or doesn’t, score points.
(To Michelle’s credit she does not, as some of her party MPs have done, try to divert concern by attempting to shift responsiblity to alleged parental inadequacy. Whether this “inadequacy” in a small number of cases, is true or not, if a child may not have enough food, free school meals help prevent hunger. Simple as that.)
I suspect that despite her apparent belief in her party’s generosity, her government will be seen to be indefensibly mean-spirited, and voters will not forget in the future. Especially those who have given their time to practical help via foodbanks and local Community Support, who have stepped in to help alleviate hardship.