A ‘Children in Need’ approach can help raise money to fund free meals for primary school children, the City of York Council’s leader has said.
Coun Claire Douglas told the Local Democracy Reporting Service she is “absolutely” confident she can deliver the pledge to provide free school meals to every primary pupil.
A ‘York Community Fund’ is set to be approved at the executive meeting on Thursday, October 12, while a trial for free school meals at Westfield Primary Community School will start early next year.
“York is a fantastic city and we have such amazing organisations and people within our city that are thoroughly committed to doing the best for people around them: their neighbours, communities, families,” coun Douglas said.
“And making sure that each child in primary school gets fed every day in York is a good thing to do.
“We know about the health benefits that it brings and the educational benefits.
“It goes without doubt.
“So what we’re doing at the moment is we’re building a campaign team and we hope soon to be able to come out with a huge fundraising appeal.
“A bit like a York Children in Need kind of approach that’s a lot of fun and gets loads of communities involved.
“Often people can contribute very small amounts.
“To feed a child a free school meal costs about £3 a day.
“So it could be a couple of pounds contribution, but if you want to feed a child for a month, a year, or two children, or whatever, it could be a very large contribution.
“We’ve got some great contributors to that effort at this point in time and I’m really hopeful.”
When asked how coun Douglas thinks people will react if she can’t deliver the pledge by the next council election, she said: “What I think will be telling for people in their communities is how many children in their communities are receiving a free school meal, once we get to that point in 2027.
“Most people in most areas will know of children in their community and their families that are receiving a free school meal that’s basically paid for by collaboration by the council and the city – and I just think that’s a good thing.
“We’d love to give it to every child at that point in time, but I’m not going to say we absolutely will because if we haven’t got the money then we can’t just magic it up out of nowhere.
“We are going to do as much as we can.”
Liberal Democrats and Conservative group leaders coun Nigel Ayre and coun Chris Steward have both been sceptical about whether Labour would be able to fund the pledge made prior to the local elections.
It is estimated to cost £3m to fund it.
Coun Ayre has previously said: “This type of politics where you overpromise and underdeliver is exactly what causes people to lose trust in the entire political process.”