Mayor to match Biggs’s offer on free school meals ‘if council can afford it’

John Biggs with Lutfur Rahman

John Biggs with Lutfur Rahman - Credit: Archant

The mayor of Tower Hamlets has said free school meals for all primary school children could be introduced if the council can afford it.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman was responding to his Labour rival John Biggs’s pledge to provide free meals for all primary school children if he is elected mayor on May 22.

Free school meals are only currently available for children from households of incomes below £15,190 a year or whose parents are receiving income support.

Mayor Rahman, speaking ahead of the council’s budget meeting on Wednesday, said: “Since my administration introduced free school dinners for infants, the government has taken up the policy.

“Now I’m glad to see Labour have caught up, too.

“We need to see if the numbers stack up, but if we can afford it, I want to adopt the proposal of extending free school dinners to all primary age children.”

In September the council introduced free meals for Reception and Year 1 pupils.

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Mr Biggs’s school meals proposal received a boost last week, as former Wapping headmistress Di Roome and the deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman voiced their support.

Ms Roome said: “John Biggs’ pledge on free school meals is massively welcome. Guaranteeing children a nutritious and healthy meal at school every day makes such a difference to their ability to learn as well as improving their health and well-being.”

Harriet Harman MP, shadow deputy prime minister, said: “By promising to provide free school meals for all primary school children in the borough, John Biggs is showing how he and Labour would help families with the squeeze on living standards.”