Comment

Mayor of London should not be praised

Finchley Church End councillor Eva Greenspan is unimpressed by Sadiq Khan’s recent spending pledges

Sadiq Khan on the Elizabeth Line (credit GLA)
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (credit GLA)

In February 2023, the Mayor of London announced plans to provide universal free school meals to all primary school children.

In an interview four months ago with ‘Politics Joe’, the mayor explicitly said that every child in London in primary school will be getting universal free school meals without means testing. This was an unequivocal pledge by the mayor to those children and their parents with a further pledge that religion or dietary requirements would not hinder their access to these meals. 

This has not been the case.

For example, the mayor intends to fund 90% of the number of children entitled to UFSM rather than 100% of children as currently happens under [the government’s] Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM) scheme. 

Funding at 90% will cause schools financial challenges as the additional funding provided under the UIFSM scheme is used to provide mealtime supervision and to offset the difference in the cost of a meal and the funding provided as we have experienced here in Barnet. 

This gap will be an issue for all schools and not just our Jewish schools. School budgets can no longer flex to accommodate a partially funded scheme.

It is my understanding that this has not changed so those issues are still a problem for schools in and out of Barnet. 

Upon pleas from councillors and headteachers across Barnet’s Jewish schools, we were told there simply wasn’t enough money to be able to fulfil these promises made by the mayor.

Now it seems the mayor has found money, £500 million of hitherto unavailable money just before the mayoral election. 

I therefore ask the Labour group, are they seriously suggesting that the government steps in to fulfil a policy pledge made by the mayor, to fix his financial illiteracy (as conservatives do when Labour’s in charge)?

Instead of using the funding of food for our children as a political football, members of the labour group should join us and ask the mayor to fund his pledge fully.

Before this council goes to the government to plug the funding gap created by the mayor. Let’s use some of that £500 million pounds to fund this programme, fund our police and put Londoners first instead of taxing them to the hilt and trying to pull one over their eyes. 

Barnet and London have had enough of this mayor of gimmicks, this mayor who promises the world but delivers nothing.

This is the text of a speech given by Cllr Greenspan at a recent Barnet Council meeting in response to a Labour motion praising Sadiq Khan for his roll out of the free school meals scheme.

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