Free school holiday food for Northampton children refused by councillors
A motion to fund free food and social activities for the town's poorest children during the school holidays has been defeated by three votes.
At Northampton Borough Council full council meeting on June 3, Councillor Emma Roberts (Lab, Delapre & Briar Hill) proposed a motion to establish holiday clubs where children can receive social activities and food to provide financial relief for their parents to make sure no child goes hungry.Emma's belief behind the motion came from some work she was doing with a youth group, and what community means to them. Food was mentioned as a topic - and the importance of making sure everyone had enough.Presenting the motion Councillor Roberts said: "This is the motion that none of us want."Ten years of austerity, unfortunately, means that we are in this position."Holiday clubs can be a good way of tackling this problem."But the motion was defeated at the Guildhall, with 15 votes for, 18 votes against and one abstention.Leader of Northampton Borough Council Johnathan Nunn added: "This motion doesn't mention the costs or services."I feel backed into a corner because who wouldn't want this to happen?"It feels like an ambush. So I can't support it. But I do want a further dialogue on how we can handle this."Northamptonshire currently has 15,200 children receiving free school meals. The motion also aimed to decrease social isolation, loneliness and inactivity by giving families on a low-income somewhere to go, and in turn, boost their mental well-being.Councillor Sally Beardsworth (Lib Dem, Kingsthorpe) added: "We are not asking for you to pay for all of it. What we are saying is we need to do something about these children who are literally starving because they are not at school."On the night, Councillor Jane Birch (Lab, Trinity) said that councillors should think about donating money from their empowerment fund - which councillor Arthur McCutcheon (Lab, Headlands) said he would do.After the meeting, Councillor Roberts said: "I felt let down by the motion not being backed because I think those reasons for doing so were simply because it was a Labour motion."There is definitely a place for empowerment money in this but it’s not the only solution. The motion focused on working with groups and is something I want to take forward."Following the meeting, Rachel McGrath from Northamptonshire Food Poverty Network said: "I am deeply angry and disappointed that a number of councillors would vote against a motion that is looking to provide a timely and urgent safety net for the most vulnerable kids and families in Northampton. This is a matter of human dignity."The Northamptonshire Food Poverty Network was set up in 2012 and is 'committed to ensuring that no citizen has to go hungry and has access to food'."I welcome the Labour councillor Arthur McCutcheon’s pledge to donate some of his funds to tackle holiday hunger in his area."I suggest that all councillors should follow suit and similarly look to fund local projects on their patch, which are helping those who are seriously struggling."