Melton MP explains why she voted against free school meals motion

by Rutland and Melton MP, Alicia Kearns.

Tuesday, 3rd November 2020, 9:23 am
Updated Tuesday, 3rd November 2020, 9:35 am
Rutland and Melton MP, Alicia Kearns EMN-200311-091900001

As an MP it is my job and responsibility to you, the constituents of Rutland and Melton, to develop and deliver policies that protect you, your families and this country at large.

Most of the time, it is straightforward how a parliamentary vote corresponds to these policies and priorities; however, on other occasions a vote may appear at odds with these values.

The public are left dismayed – and quite rightly expect their MP to explain their position.

The Free School Meals vote last week is one such example – on the face of it, the motion would certainly appear self-evidently desirable to most, but appealing motions don’t always make for sound policy.

I voted against the motion not because of what it was trying to achieve, but because of how it would have forced us to try to achieve it.

Placing schools at the centre of the solution to child hunger is not right, nor is focusing exclusively on food rather than alongside rent, clothes, white goods and other necessities.

We have already rolled out a £63 million ‘Emergency Grant for Food and Essential Supplies’ programme to Local Authorities to support families in need with not just food, but also white goods, clothing or council tax.

This is three times more funding than what was proposed in the Free School Meals motion.

This has seen Leicestershire and Rutland County Councils receive over half a million in funds (Leicester received a further £500k).

I’ve also been in discussions with the Department for Work and Pensions, DEFRA and colleagues on what further support our communities may need as we approach the Winter months – particularly to support those who are rurally isolated.

I did not vote for Labour’s opposition day debate motion, not because I do not agree we need to support vulnerable children, but because support to vulnerable families is already being delivered in a more comprehensive way providing support for food and other urgent needs like clothes or white goods unlike before Summer where this wasn’t in place.

The proposal was for less than a third of the funding we’ve already put in place, and fundamentally I believe support should be delivered by Local Councils, not schools.

This motion (which would not have become law in any case) would also have come too late for us in Melton, if not the entire country since rolling out such a scheme in under 3 working days is unachievable and we were already on half term.

In addition to this scheme, we have put further support in place for families such as £16million to food charities, £180 million to help those families with difficulties paying their rent, a Holiday Activities and Food Programme, an additional £11.8 million to boost breakfast clubs by over a third, and nearly £9 billion of additional support through the welfare system.

In short, while the opposition motion was emotive and named a problem that is both heartfelt and profoundly concerning, it promised to address the problem in a way that was incomplete and would not have led to the best outcomes for those in need.

I fully accept that we can do more – and I’m working on that - but I was elected to deliver comprehensive, practical and responsible support for children.

I voted for more comprehensive support delivered in a more localised way.

Anyone in need of help should contact me and I will continue to do all I can to support them.

Whilst I knew that as a Member of Parliament there would be difficult times, the levels of abuse my staff have faced is utterly unacceptable.

They deserve to feel safe at work and not be the subject of abuse especially when they work tirelessly to support the community.

They have gone above and beyond to help thousands of constituents.

Equally unacceptable are the threats from constituents that my home, and indeed my family, should be targeted.

Anyone who is unpersuaded by my clear reasons is welcome to email me.

I also want to discuss the St Mary’s Birthing Centre consultations.

In the last few weeks, I have listened to many residents, and met with clinicians at St Mary’s to understand what support they may need.

We need the best option for mothers, and I would strongly encourage all residents to formally respond to the consultation to ensure your view is

counted.

Constituents have raised concerns around difficulties of the consultation response form.

I have lobbied the CCG to make the consultation form easier to fill in, and an update should be made shortly.

Beyond this I have made it clear to local health chiefs that the people of Melton deserve a detailed explanation of plans for services at Melton hospital

long term.

I will not accept a situation where we continue to see services slowly stripped away with no plan for the sustainability or future of our hospital.

Finally, COVID rates are rising again, and there have been 70 new cases in Melton.

Everyone must take personal responsibility and follow the guidelines.

As always, I am here to help you and make sure the best possible decisions are taken for the people of Rutland and Melton.