In the aftermath of the commons vote, community initiatives were hastily set up to offer free packed lunches to children in Peterborough, with restaurants and cafes also offering free meals for those most in need.
The campaign to extend free school meals was originally initiated and led by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, and he has been mapping those restaurants offering support so families know where to turn.
However, today deputy leader of Peterborough council, Councillor Wayne Fitzgerald, assured us that no families will go hungry this week and said PCC is here to help.
He said: "No family or child will go hungry in Peterborough. This Conservative administration cares about the people who live here, and we take seriously our responsibilities to make sure all our residents are looked after particularly those families that are blessed with children."
However he added: "Government cannot be expected to fund everything forever so local authorities like Peterborough have stepped up efforts since March to fill any gap. With support from our MP's Paul Bristow and Shailesh Vara we were given an extra £276k from government in August to support essential services including food and supplies.
“As most people will know there is already an extensive benefits system in place in the UK for those on low incomes and most people on these benefits manage perfectly well and can look after themselves and feed their children daily. We are already in touch with those families and know what their needs are, and we will remind them again about the additional support available to them.
“People should reflect calmly and understand that this decision by government has turned yet again into a political football between all the parties looking to score points off each other and we will not participate in the ongoing media frenzy surrounding this - there is no issue in Peterborough that we cannot deal with and nobody needs to be hungry or go without food, “ he added.
The council is reminding people who are struggling that the necessary support is in place for those who need it via the Peterborough city hub.
It was set up in March to support people and help them access food and other supplies if they are struggling to provide for their families. PCC assured this can also help those who are eligible for free school meals during the holidays.
Councillor Fitzgerald said: “We are delighted that so many local businesses are stepping up to offer additional support – and would urge them to make these offers directly to the Hub to as we know and are in touch with all of those who will be able to make best use of this.”
A spokeswoman for PCC said: “All those struggling to cope with basic essentials during this pandemic can contact the Peterborough City hub for help and advice – which might include support and direction to other sources of help, and this includes families who may be struggling but are not eligible for free school meals on 01733 747474.”
Further reminders of how to access help from the hub is also being issued to the parents of all children eligible for free school meals in Peterborough from their schools.
The MP, Paul Bristow who voted against the extension, defended the government's decision on his social media post and said: “On Wednesday, there was a vote on a Labour Party motion about extending free school meals. We are already going further than ever before, which the motion ignored.
“It was just a motion and wouldn’t have changed anything. There is a policy and spending framework for these decisions, which the motion didn’t alter. Not a single extra child or family would have been supported if this vote was passed.
“Labour know this. The reality is that:
- Free school meals are provided to 1.4 million children from low income families
- £9 billion extra has been put into the welfare system to help during COVID-19
- Just yesterday Councils have been given an extra £1 billion to help and I helped to secure £5.7 million for Peterborough.”
The MP for North West Cambridgeshire did not take part in the vote but in a statement to Peterborough Matters, Mr Vara said he would have voted in favour of the government’s decision.