From City Hall: A child has a right to a hot meal

The Oxford University vaccine to build immunity against coronavirus is advancing. Photograph: David

The coronavirus vaccine is being rolled out - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

2020 has been a difficult year, to say the least. Covid-19 cases continue to rise but there is finally hope on the horizon in the form of the vaccine now being rolled out. 

I visited a vaccination centre in Stratford and was impressed with the efficiency of the operation and the dedication of the NHS staff I met.

I also met the mayor of Newham and have twice written to the borough’s director of public health, asking them in particular about enforcement and sanitation measures, reflecting concerns residents have voiced to me. 

The connection between overcrowding and the spread of the virus – disproportionately affecting BAME communities – has been well documented but we need to step up our action against rogue landlords and enforcement generally.

The proactive social media messaging being carried out in Tower Hamlets would be a good model for Newham. 

Unmesh Desa will be monitoring the implementation of the new Policing Action Plan.

Unmesh Desai has joined the council in lobbying government for fair council funding - Credit: London Assembly

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Covid marshals, attached to specific neighbourhoods so they can build a relationship with local communities, would also prove effective, I believe.

As you may be aware from social media, I have serious concerns about the plans to cut the free school meals programme in the borough. The right to a hot, nutritious meal once a day, regardless of a family’s income status to avoid stigmatisation, is of fundamental importance.

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One of my proudest achievements as a Newham councillor was helping develop the country’s first free school meals programme in 2009. 

The pandemic and central government cuts are leaving councils with difficult choices to make, but it is often said “the language of socialism is the language of priorities” and I urge the council not to cut free school meals.

I have joined the council in lobbying central government for fair council funding, starting with the £59m Newham has spent on the pandemic. 

At the London Assembly, I and other members have done what little we can by freezing our own pay, but across London we will see more cuts if the government doesn’t act.
I wish everyone all the best for 2021. Please stay safe.

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