Gedling councillor and MP clash over summer free school meals vouchers

A Gedling borough councillor has clashed with local MP Tom Randall over the issue of free school meal vouchers during the summer holidays.

Gedling MP Tom Randall and Councillor Michael Payne, who is deputy leader of Gedling Borough Council, have exchanged letters over the past week on a government decision not to provide the free school meal vouchers over the coming summer holidays.

In a letter to Mr Randall, Councillor Payne urged the MP to write to Prime Minister Boris Johnson requesting he reinstates the scheme during the summer holidays after accusing the government of ‘taking away’ the vouchers from needy families.

Mr Randall responded and highlighted that the government had put in place a £9m summer holidays activity and food programme offering meals and activities to thousands of children – including many in the borough.

He also reminded the councillor for Arnold North and Redhill that the scheme hadn’t been ‘taken away’ as vouchers hadn’t been offered over the summer previously.

In the letter the Gedling MP assured Mr Payne that the scheme was ‘under review’ and said ‘he would take a close interest in the matter.

He wrote: “I understand that, in these rapidly changing circumstances, Ministers are keeping the provision of free school meals under review and will keep Parliament updated accordingly”

School meals
Free school meal vouchers are to now be offered in the summer

it was today announced About 1.3 million children in England will be able to claim free school meal vouchers during the holidays, following a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford.

In a letter to MPs posted online on Monday, the Manchester United forward drew on his own experience of relying on free school meals and food banks while he was growing up.

The footballer had asked others to think about struggling parents who have had their “water turned off” during the coronavirus lockdown, and whose children have gone hungry.

‘All children eligible for free school meals in term time in England will benefit from the “Covid summer food fund”, Downing Street said.

Following today’s announcement, Councillor Payne posted another letter online, which was critical of the MP’s response to calls for vouchers to be reinstated.

He wrote: “It is disappointing that you gave no assurances you would take the actions requested [in the previous letter] – a missed opportunity to speak up for the 2,570 families with children attending schools in Gedling borough.

Mr Randall is yet to respond to Councillor Payne’s latest correspondence.

Let's change Gedling together

It’s an honour to represent the community that I was born and brought up in. Together, Gedling’s community has supported one another through the toughest of times but the truth is we are being let down by Tom Randall and the Tories.

The only thing that Tom Randall has going for him is that he is from Gedling. But it’s not just about living here in Gedling, it is about delivering here in Gedling.

I’ve protected over 4,500 working families in Gedling from paying any council tax, worked to set up St Mary’s Community Kitchen in Arnold to support children and families throughout the pandemic and forced Conservative-run Nottinghamshire to make tackling food poverty and child poverty a top priority.

I am proud to be from Gedling, I will always be on the side of Gedling, and I will work hard to become your local Labour MP for Gedling.