Free school meals in the works for Tower Hamlets as council budget is delayed
PUBLISHED: 11:40 28 February 2014 | UPDATED: 16:51 28 February 2014
Children in Tower Hamlets were closer to getting free school meals this week as politicians hashed out rival proposals following a debate at Wednesday’s council meeting.
The council budget was postponed after councillors passed an amendment from Labour to provide free school meals to all primary school children in the borough.
However, Mayor Lutfur Rahman said Labour had only costed the scheme for one term and refused to adopt the proposal.
He told the Advertiser a new plan for free primary school meals was being worked on by council officers and would be announced next week.
This would be an extention of the current provisions, which give free meals to Reception and Year 1 pupils.
Labour dismissed the claim their plan was not costed properly and accused the mayor of playing politics.
The failure of the council to agree on a budget means there will be another budget meeting next Thursday.
The mayor will decide whether to accept the Labour amendments, which passed by 22 votes to 17 with seven councillors abstaining, before taking his budget proposals back to the council on March 6 for the final decision.
His budget will be adopted unless two thirds of councillors vote to include the amendments.
Mayor Rahman said: ”Labour’s proposals were funded for the financial year, not the school year, so they fell one term and £1million short of providing what Labour claim.
“I’ve asked officers to come up with a proposal that does provide ongoing free school dinners.”
John Biggs, Labour candidate for mayor, said: “Labour are putting forward a progressive and exciting agenda for change in our borough and all Lutfur Rahman can do is use his position to block it.
“It’s clear Rahman is running out of steam but that’s no excuse to block popular and fully costed plans which would have a lifechanging effect on children in this borough.”
Mr Biggs has promised free primary school meals if he is elected in May.
Last week, the mayor said the council could adopt this policy if it can afford it.
For more information about the budget proposals visit towerhamlets.gov.uk/committee.