CONCERNS are rife that Lambeth Labour will struggle to fulfill their promise to deliver free breakfasts in all primary schools across the borough in the face of local government cuts.
In their election manifesto, Lambeth Labour pledged to ‘provide free breakfasts in all our primary schools’ but are yet to disclose how much this will cost or where the funds will come from, saying only that a ‘flexible’ approach to funding will be taken.
The council has secured £600,000 to put towards tackling childhood obesity – but have not disclosed how much will be invested in free breakfasts. The funding, which will be provided by the Mayor of London and Department of Education, was announced at Christ Church Primary School in Brixton on July 18.
Blackpool Council piloted a £1.3m three-month school breakfast scheme last year, while Southwark ploughed £8m into free meals back in 2011.
Lambeth Council’s funding has been slashed by half in the last four years – and councillors have voiced concerns that the scheme may be impractical in the face of the cuts.
Cllr Bernard Gentry, councillor for Clapham Common, said: “The council can’t afford this. Money for the scheme will end up coming out of the taxpayers’ pocket.”
St Leonard’s war councillor Scott Ainslie warned that the plans could be an empty pledge.
He said: “Labour must demonstrate that this is not yet another phony promise like the one four years ago to provide free swimming for every child in Lambeth.
“At present it is unclear how this will be funded without cutting yet more vital services elsewhere, or some backtracking so free breakfasts are offered to just a few children in each school, or on just a temporary basis.”
Cllr Lib Peck, Lambeth council leader, said: “We are taking a flexible approach to getting this scheme in place by bidding for funding, building on existing programmes and working with schools, parents and the community to develop the best approach.
“It’s an important initiative, so instead of just saying this is too hard, or that our budget cuts are too deep, we are being positive and finding ways to make it happen.
“We want to see what works by talking and listening to schools and parents, looking at other local schemes that are working well, and helping families that need it.”