Islington Tribune
Publications by New Journal Enterprises
  Home Archive Competition Jobs Tickets Accommodation Dating Contact us
Islington Tribune - by ROISIN GADELRAB
Published: 12 June 2009
Free school meals ‘sabotage’ claim

Labour accuse Lib Dems of attempting to wreck the lunches scheme they forced through

CHILDREN at Islington primary schools are being denied free lunches because Lib Dem councillors are “sabotaging” council policy.
That was the accusation made by Labour on Tuesday in a furious row that broke out at a key meeting of the overview committee.
“Start the free meals,” demanded Labour leader Councillor Catherine West as she angrily banged her desk.
But the Lib Dems argued there was not enough money in the budget to pay for the lunches – and that more information was needed about the size of special funds for the borough’s schools.
In the meantime, a pilot scheme for six schools will be introduced in September, say the Lib Dems.
The free school meal policy was forced through by Labour, who found themselves with a majority of one, at a special budget-setting meeting in April.
Defending the Lib Dems, committee chairman Andrew Cornwell said the budget’s “underlying assumption” was that free meals would be rolled out “in thirds” throughout the year.
Education chief Cllr Paula Belford said a pilot wouldn’t be necessary if an agreement could be reached with the government department.
Cllr West said: “We were given rock solid figures.
“If there’s a problem with the figures I want to know how. I’ll not have that. We made the decision, that’s what people expect and I’ll not be told there’s not enough money.”
Labour councillor Phil Kelly said: “Why is it necessary to limit the roll-out to six schools if the percentage loss is less than 10 per cent. Surely it would be possible to roll out to the majority.
“Why isn’t it possible to use the figures you have already established. Is it because you really are opposed to the policy and you’re trying to sabotage it?”
Under the pressure of the fierce debate, Thanos Morphitis, a director of children’s services, admitted there could be enough money to pay for all children by January.
Labour councillor Paul Convery asked: “Can you guarantee that barring some catastrophe it’s your commitment to ensure we have 100 per cent implementation by summer 2010?”
Cllr Belford replied: “The budget says we have to do that so we have to do that. We may have to look at it as a growth item.”
This month every child from the six pilot schools, whose names are being kept secret for now, will have to fill in a form regarding their family’s financial circumstances.
All other children will register in September.
Labour councillors and committee chairman Andrew Cornwell proposed to ask the executive to define the word “pilot”.
But two committee members representing Islington schools joined the Lib Dems to out-vote them.

Comment on this article.
(You must supply your full name and email address for your comment to be published)





Your comments:


Theatre Music
Arts & Events Attractions