Chancellor Janette Williamson has taken the decision to deny free school meals to the poorest children during the October half of this week to extremes.
In a heartfelt appeal to the government to reintroduce free school meals, the chairwoman of the Wirral Council has openly spoken about her own difficult childhood.
In the sincere message, the government was asked to reverse its decision.
“Seeing the Conservative government vote to remove the vital lifeline of free meals for children in need beyond half of the term makes me deeply ill.
“My mother juggled a series of low-paid part-time jobs to keep a roof over her head until she became a nurse when I was 16.
Cllr Williamson said he was writing in a personal capacity and did not express the opinion of the local authority: “When I was eight years old, my father died. From then on, until I left school, I received regular – and grateful – free school meals.
Mr. Williamson continued, “Earlier this year, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimated that one in eight working class families was living in poverty. The families are doing the right thing, according to the government. Yet they cannot pay their bills or keep their heads above water.
“The justification of their MPs is that these misguided parents need to be taught how to housekeep properly and that they would spend their vouchers on alcohol, drugs and brothels. This is a low point in politics.”
The Labour councillor explained why the issue was particularly important in Wirral, a district where there is great poverty.
“We are the sixth wealthiest country in the world. We are a country with enormous prosperity, but 21% of this country’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of 1% of the population. Where is the seepage of this wealth that has been promised to us by successive conservative governments?
“In 2019, 17.7% of the children in Wirral were living in low-income poverty. This equates to 10,687 children affected by poverty and 16,512 people using Wirral Foodbank, with a 25% increase in the number of single parents using it.
The Liscard member also reflected on the fantastic community spirit that has emerged since the confirmation of the free school lunch policy.
As ECHO reported last week, a large number of small food companies in Wirral decided to step in and offer free school meals during the half week.
The Council has also intervened by providing grants to community groups to ensure that children do not go hungry during the October break.
“They have been disappointed by ten years of austerity measures and poor, low-paid, low quality work, which is now being exacerbated by Covid. The debate about free school meals has brought the myth that people can work their way out of poverty into the spotlight.
Cllr Williamson added: “To have starving children in our country is deeply distressing. Parents who are unable to feed their children are not lacking in moral strength, they have been abandoned by the system.
“They are an example of compassion and collective responsibility, something that this conservative government clearly lacks.
“I therefore call on the government to reverse its policy of denying free school meals during school vacations, and I call on all members of the Wirral Council, including the Conservatives, to do the right thing and to lobby the government to change the law immediately.
“I would like to personally thank all business and community groups who have met and worked with the council for the benefit of Wirral.