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"No such thing as a free lunch," say Lib Dems

February 23, 2009 10:59 AM
Councillor John Gilbert

Lib Dem finance chief John Gilbert

Islington Liberal Democrat councillors have slammed Labour's plans for taxpayer-funded school meals in the borough as expensive and not helping those most in need.

Research by the Lib Dems showed that a similar scheme in Hull cost the council there £12.5 million in the three short years that it was up and running. Without funding from the Government, Islington taxpayers would be left with a bill of at least £3m every year to pay for Labour's plans.

Liberal Democrats have identified the following problems with Labour's plans to introduce taxpayer-funded meals for primary children:

  • the Labour Government won't fund a pilot scheme as Islington doesn't meet its criteria so local taxpayers will have to pick up the whole tab.
  • it does nothing for secondary school children for whom there is much greater need.
  • will lead to a dramatic drop in Government schools funding for Islington as it is based on number of people who sign-up for free school meals
  • will give taxpayer-funded school meals to families who can afford to pay for them.
  • will mean subsidising families living in other boroughs using local schools.

Cllr Paula Belford, Islington Lib Dem executive member for children, comments:

"If Labour really wanted to help children from poor families get a healthy meal they would have proposed free school meals for families on low wages but who don't currently qualify for free school meals. Instead they have decided to grab the headlines with this expensive and ineffective proposal."

Cllr John Gilbert, Lib Dem Finance boss, comments:

"There is no such thing as a free lunch. The full cost of Labour´s plan would be £3million every year.

"Labour's proposal flies in the face of economic sense and doesn't help the neediest. Instead, Labour will squander money from some of the most hard-pressed local taxpayers on children from some of the richest families in Islington."