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Lib Dem u-turn on free school meals ridiculed

Hull North MP Diana Johnson has slammed Lib Dem opportunism following yesterday’s announcement on free school meals.

 Diana Johnson MP said: “When they ran Hull’s Council, Lib Dems axed the universal free healthy school meals policy in 2007 after it had been pioneered locally by Labour in Hull. They said that it wasn’t affordable. This was at a time when the then Labour Government was giving Hull annual increases in council funding.
“A few years later, in their national Coalition with the Tories, Lib Dems backed axing further Government funding for the policy when the previous Labour Government’s pilot scheme ended. Until yesterday, Lib Dems attacked Labour councils around the country who have brought in the policy in local areas.

 “Opportunist Lib Dems now back a policy they’ve slammed as ‘encouraging dependency’ and ‘wasting money’!

“When Hull Labour councillors were again proposing to cut school meal prices in May 2011, the Hull Lib Dem Deputy Leader told the Hull Daily Mail that Hull Lib Dems still opposed the policy, saying: ‘We opposed it then and we oppose it now. The facts are that the money can be better spent elsewhere.’

“Lib Dems have now stopped denying nearly a decade of evidence that the universal free school meals policy helps family budgets and raises children’s attainment in classrooms, especially in the poorest communities.

“However after their u-turn, Lib Dems need to work out how they can introduce the policy, because their Government has given each school, not councils, the role of deciding on school food charges. Worse still, the Coalition’s Pupil Premium regime could see schools losing funding if pupils are no longer on means-tested free school meals.

 “The Coalition is planning to spend £600m on this school meals policy. However, their Government will still have cut £7bn from support for children by 2015.”

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