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‘All pupils in reception and Year 1 in Tower Hamlets schools will be eligible for a free school meal’

12:29 27 February 2013

Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman

Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman

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Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets

Recently the Children’s Society presented a petition to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, signed by over 90,000 people, asking that all children in poverty be given free school meals. Here in Tower Hamlets, we haven’t had to wait for a petition to be handed in. For I am able to announce that from this September, all pupils in Reception and Year 1 in Tower Hamlets Schools, (Maintained, Academies and Free Schools) will be eligible for a free school meal. This initiative will provide a free school meal to around 3,943 extra pupils.

My administration is doing this because we believe that it is essential that children in their first years of school are guaranteed a healthy lunch to get them off to a good start. We are able to do this because we have additional funds made available from our public health settlement. We are also doing this because this Tory-led Coalition is intent on slashing help to the neediest, and in Tower Hamlets we still have historically high levels of child poverty.

Ever since Margaret Thatcher abolished free school milk as Education Secretary, and became known as ‘Thatcher the milk snatcher’, the Tories have tried to chip away at what we know is best for our kids. Now, I am proud to say that we will become one of the first authorities in Britain to reverse that trend.

We will also be setting up the Mayor’s University Grant, at a cost of £1,260 million over two years. This will provide bursaries to 400 young people in our borough to help towards the rising costs of university. In addition, we will be freezing council tax for the fourth year in a row, improving cycling safety, and investing in our local markets to thrive. We will also be introducing measures to protect vulnerable residents in temporary accommodation from the impact of the Government’s cuts in welfare spending.

Finally, despite criticism from some of my opponents, I am determined to reduce the amount of money we spend annually hiring a Town Hall and other offices to house staff. We spend in the region of £10 million a year on these facilities, so if we can find an appropriate building that is cheaper and easier to access, I hope that residents will agree that it makes sense.

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