In the run up to local elections in May, York Labour committed to providing every primary school child in York with free school meals.
A laudable ambition but one they now seek to quietly abandon.
Prior to the election, York's Lib Dems expressed concern that whilst fully supportive of the benefits of such a scheme, Labour have failed to properly consider the full cost of implementing it. Whilst delivering the meals would come to around £3M each year, capital expenditure would also be needed to increase the capacity of most if not all primary schools across the city. The Council estimates this capital cost at approximately £20k per school with some needing significantly more than that sum where building extensions may be needed.
Labour dismissed these concerns and stated they already had businesses and charities 'lined up' to deliver their pledge. However, since the election these businesses and charities have not materialised, and Labour now say only that they will 'start' with a pilot in a single 'very small' school.
Councillor Nigel Ayre, York Liberal Democrats Group Leader said: "We are particularly concerned that Labour is expecting to recover the costs of the scheme by reducing primary health care over the coming decades. Pitching one vulnerable group against another is not a positive step forward. This appears to be yet another ill-conceived pledge made by Labour to York residents that they will not be able to deliver. In an election decided by just a few hundred votes, abandoned promises such as this should call into question the legitimacy of Labour's right to run the Council."
Councillor Andrew Hollyer, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for York Outer added: "This was a scheme only ever deliverable by a national government. With Keir Starmer abandoning free school meals for primary children as a policy of the Labour Party, York Labour have been left high and dry. The only major Party now fighting for free school meals for all primary school children is the Liberal Democrats."