Local News


3 Jun 2024
Four children eating food from a plate.

ALL primary school children should receive free school meals – starting the roll-out with those living in poverty who are currently missing out.

The Liberal Democrats have announced their ambition to extend free school meals to all primary school children, beginning with all children in poverty across both primary and secondary schools.

Martin Goss, Colchester’s Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, says the Government is failing for “letting children go hungry in the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation”.

Data from all local authorities in England revealed huge numbers of children are missing out, with just 18.9% in Essex receiving free school meals. But under Lib Dem plans an additional 26,732 children in the county from Year 3 and above would be included.

The party will fund their manifesto policy by introducing a share buyback tax, inspired by a similar tax introduced by President Joe Biden in the USA.

Goss said“In our area there are too many children expected to learn on empty stomachs with no guarantee of a hot meal when they get home.

“Conservative MPs should hang their heads in shame at a legacy of children going hungry in the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation.” 

In all, there are some 90,000 children deemed living in poverty in the East of England who not receive free school meals. Analysis by leading finance company PWC found that every £1 spent on free school meals for the poorest children generates £1.38 in health and earnings benefits, including improvements to health, education and future working life opportunities. 

The Government currently only provides meals for all children in reception, Year 1 and Year 2. In Year 3 and above there are stringent conditions for children receiving free school meals based on family income. 

Lib Dem plans would see an immediate extension of free school meals to all 900,000 children living in poverty who currently miss out across both primary and secondary school.

The manifesto pledge would be funded by a 4% levy on the share buybacks of FTSE 100 listed corporations, similar to the excise tax on buybacks implemented by President Biden in the US, which could raise around £1.4bn a year.

Share buybacks occur when companies use profits to inflate their own share price, a practice which critics have warned can come at the expense of productive investment in the economy.

The sectors using share buybacks the most are oil and gas giants, banks and large corporations that own a number of food and consumer goods brands. This suggests the practice is being driven by companies profiting from soaring prices during the cost-of-living crisis.

Goss added: “It is time for change. Every vote for the Liberal Democrats in Colchester is a vote for a local champion who will fight for the wellbeing of children and their futures. 

“I am proud the Liberal Democrats have the most ambitious plan for free school meals of any party, which would save parents money and transform the future for millions of children.”

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