Garth Harkness

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Saddleworth North Ward on Oldham Council Learn more

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Time to give child food poverty the boot, say Liberal Democrats

by Garth Harkness on 28 October, 2020

Liberal Democrat Councillors are playing on the same team as campaigning footballer Marcus Rashford when it comes to tackling child food poverty.

The 22-year old Manchester United star has just been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his work ensuring that no child goes hungry.

This is an issue close to the heart of Saddleworth North Liberal Democrat Councillor Garth Harkness, who is proposing a motion at the next full meeting of Oldham Council (November 4) seeking cross-party support for Mr Rashford’s pioneering work.  He has frequently raised child hunger with the Council.  Being employed at a Manchester school, Councillor Harkness is well-aware of the adverse impact that hunger can have on a child’s educational performance.

Commenting Councillor Harkness said:  “When many people think of top-flight footballers, they think of individuals who are over-paid and self-absorbed.  Marcus Rashford has proven that footballers can also care about others, and whilst there may have been a hiatus of play on the pitch during the Covid-19 pandemic, he has been playing away in a different arena, quietly but forcefully, to ensure that every child who is hungry gets fed.  It is largely down to him that the Conservative Government was embarrassed into a U-turn to provide school meals for pupils, and his MBE is richly-deserved for those efforts.”

Mr Rashford has recently called on the Government to immediately fund three recommendations from the National Food Strategy during and after the pandemic.

Crompton Councillor Louie Hamblett is backing his Liberal Democrat colleague: “Whatever football team you support, it still feels the same when you are hungry.  We would like Councillors from all parties, whatever colour rosette they may wear at election time, to back our motion which calls on the Tory Government to find this funding and to find it now.  Quite simply, the Oldham Liberal Democrats believe that it is truly shameful that in one of the world’s most advanced economies, two decades into the twenty-first century, children still go hungry in the UK.”

 

The next meeting of Oldham Council will be online from 6pm on Wednesday November 4.

The wording of the motion follows.

Council November 4, 2020 – Notice of Opposition Business –

Motion 3 – Time to tackle child food poverty

This Council:

·       Believes that, in one of the world’s most advanced economies, it is shameful that two decades into the twenty-first century, children still go hungry in the UK.

·       Is committed to ensuring that reducing child food poverty in our Borough remains one of our top priorities and commends organisations in this Borough which are working to do so.

·       Also commends the initiative of Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford who has successfully campaigned on school holiday hunger and has recently formed a taskforce with some of the UK’s leading food retailers and charities to help reduce child food poverty.

·       Notes that this taskforce has called upon the government to fund three policy recommendations from the National Food Strategy, an independent review of UK food policy, as soon as possible:

  • The expansion of free school meals to every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 1.5m children aged seven to 16
  • The expansion of holiday food and activities to support all children on free school meals, reaching an additional 1.1m children
  • Increasing the value of the Healthy Start vouchers from £3.10 to £4.25 per week and expanding it to all those on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 290,000 children under the age of four and pregnant women
  • Notes that the taskforce has said that implementing these three recommendations would mark a ‘unifying step to identifying a long-term solution to child poverty in the UK’.

Council concurs with the conclusion of the taskforce in calling upon the government to immediately fund these recommendations.

Council feels that if the Prime Minister wishes to be believed when he talks of ‘building (Britain) back better’ then he must address child food poverty as a top priority; for how can Britain be better when our nation’s children continue to go hungry?

Council resolves to ask the Chief Executive to write to:

  • Mr Marcus Rashford commending him for his initiative and offering this Council’s support for his work and that of the taskforce.
  • Mr Henry Dimbleby, who led the National Food Strategy, commending the work of the review panel and offering this Council’s support for their recommendations.
  • The Chancellor of the Exchequer calling upon him to fund these three top recommendations as a matter of great urgency.
  • Our three local MPs asking them to also make urgent representations to the Chancellor on this issue.

Proposed by Councillor Garth Harkness

Seconded by Councillor Louie Hamblett

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