Islington’s Lib Dems want to take away free school meals because they do not understand the importance of universal public service provision.

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It was recently revealed that Islington’s Liberal Democrats (who unfortunately are in charge of things around here) are planning to take away free school meals from the borough’s primary school children after the upcoming local elections.

They’ve never liked the idea of providing free school meals to Islington’s kids. The Labour group only just managed to get the policy passed at a council meeting. The Lib Dems have been complaining about it ever since and have been reluctant to implement the change.

In the latest edition of the Islington Tribune the Lib Dem executive member for finance explains his party’s position on the issue. Some of the critical points made by Councillor John Gilbert have some validity. For example, the issue of pupils coming to Islington’s schools from neighbouring boroughs is admittedly problematic. But then no scheme is absolutely perfect, and I’m sure that some sort of solution to this could be sought.

However, the principal Lib Dem argument is that free school meals should be opposed because some wealthy families will benefit from it. Some well-meaning folk may be persuaded by this point of view, but I’m not.

The previous situation was that only the poorest of the poor were given free school meals. There is substantial evidence that this targeted service provision was not wholly effective because of the social stigma associated with free school meals. The quality of the meals themselves also left much to be desired.

It’s been said before but it’s worth saying again: a service for the poor will usually end up as a poor service.

If the Lib Dem’s logic is taken too seriously, then perhaps we would end comprehensive schooling altogether. We would have free schools for the very poor and make everyone else pay school fees. Likewise the NHS, from which we all currently benefit and therefore take an interest in protecting and improving, would become a skeleton service for those at the bottom of society whilst everyone else would be expected to have private medical insurance (a bit like the situation in the US).

Our relationship with food is very important and is something Britain’s education system should be taking more seriously. Providing free school meals for all pupils is a step in the right direction. Lib Dem opposition to universal service provision of free school meals in Islington’s primary schools demonstrates the party’s lack of awareness, lack of imagination, and lack of political courage when it comes to this important issue.

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One Response to “Islington’s Lib Dems want to take away free school meals because they do not understand the importance of universal public service provision.”

  1. Debate: Are packed lunches or school dinners healthier for your child? | Eco Eats Says:

    […] school meals for all primary schools. This is consistently challenged by the opposition party (the Lib Dems) who argue that only those on lower incomes should be eligible. But the main reason is attempting […]

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