Garth Harkness

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

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Liberal Democrats welcome Conservative climbdown on school meals scandal

by Garth Harkness on 10 November, 2020

The Oldham Liberal Democrats have welcomed Boris Johnson’s recent climbdown over the provision of school meals to the children of England’s poorest families.  The Conservative Government has pledged £396 million of targeted support for 1.7 million children over the Christmas, Easter and Summer school holidays.  The Prime Minister conveyed the good news in a telephone call on Saturday with campaigning footballer Marcus Rashford OBE.

The Liberal Democrats brought a motion to the last meeting of the Oldham Council (4 November) in support of Marcus Rashford’s campaign to tackle holiday hunger and child poverty in England. 

On hearing the welcome announcement, Saddleworth North Councillor Garth Harkness, who proposed the motion, said:  “We congratulate Marcus Rashford on his successful campaign to turn around government policy on this issue.  Only days before, Tory MPs had disgracefully voted against awarding money for school meals in Parliament; all the while taking advantage of the publicly subsidised canteens in Westminster.  Over one million people signed a petition in support of the campaign of the Manchester United and England player, and the Oldham Liberal Democrats in bringing forward this motion wanted also to show our support for Mr Rashford’s initiative”.

Crompton Councillor Louie Hamblett, who seconded the motion, added:  “The Oldham Liberal Democrats believe that to let children go hungry in the United Kingdom, one of the world’s richest economies, is truly disgraceful.  We hope that in passing this motion, Oldham Council will send a clear signal of support to Marcus Rashford and to Henry Dimbleby, who chaired the National Food Strategy group, in their fight to end child food poverty”.

The motion was carried at the Council meeting last Wednesday (4 November).

Ends/…

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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