Powys Conservatives blast Welsh Government for withdrawing support for free school meals

CONSERVATIVE politicians in Powys will send a letter to the Welsh Government criticising their decision to withdraw financial support for free school meals during holidays.

At the end of June, the Welsh Government told councils across Wales that it would stop funding free school meals (FSM) holiday payments.

Funding for FSM during holidays by the Welsh Government started in March 2020 as part of the Covid-19 pandemic response and was extended many times up until the May half term.

The Government has said that it no longer has the money to do this.

At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Economy, Residents and Communities Scrutiny Committee on Monday, July 17 the council’s proposal to use £280,000 to fund FSM over the summer holiday was scrutinised by councillors.

Conservative Cllr Karl Lewis, the committee vice-chairman took the helm at the meeting as Liberal Democrat chairwoman, Cllr Angela Davies was unable to attend the session.

Cllr Lewis said, “I applaud the cabinet for taking this action, obviously this could have been avoided, Welsh Government dropping this on us at the last minute just before the summer holidays.

“I have concerns.

“The Welsh Government have not given enough time for (local) authorities to react to this.

“I don’t want to make it political or anything, but we need to send a letter or acknowledge that covering these costs puts the authority in a very difficult position.

“We need to make Welsh Government aware of they position they have put us in.”

Cllr Lewis said he was worried that the £280,000 would not stretch if Social Services received “a large family referral with complex needs” as there would be “less reserves” to go around.

Cllr Lewis said: “Reserves are there for unavoidable circumstances and this is one of them.”

Fellow Tory, Cllr Adrian Jones backed Cllr Lewis’ comments while “absolutely supporting” the council’s scheme.

“It’s late in the day and a complaint should be made, ” said Cllr Jones.

Independent Cllr Arwel Jones, said: “More than happy to support the proposal to cabinet but disappointed that Welsh Government has only given us four weeks notice.”

The committee agreed that Cllr Lewis should write the letter and send it to the Welsh Government.

The committee supported the proposal for the council to fund FSM over the summer holiday and their comments were conveyed to Cabinet – who approved the funding at their meeting on Tuesday, July 18.


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