City of York Council sets up £100,000 fundraising pot to pay for free school meals

The City of York Council has set up a fundraising pot to fund free meals for all of the city’s primary school children.

At the council executive meeting on Thursday (Oct 12) the Labour administration voted to establish a York community fund. The council will get things up and running with a £100,000 contribution to the pot but will ask for further donations from businesses, organisations and individuals to fund what is necessary to deliver its free school meal pledge.

“It’s about delivering, however we can, for our most vulnerable,” said the executive member for education, Coun Bob Webb. “It’s an ambitious step to deliver, in partnership, our pledge on free school meals and that is important. I’ve talked many times about mobilising the city, this is what that mobilisation looks like.”

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“Poverty,” he added, “leads to poorer health outcomes. It’s affecting impoverished people disproportionately and that is not something that we can accept. And that’s something that we, as an administration, are focusing on tackling.”

A fundraising pot for free school meals will be set up by the councilA fundraising pot for free school meals will be set up by the council
A fundraising pot for free school meals will be set up by the council

Coun Webb also said: “We are supporting people through a cost of living crisis. York has a proud history of supporting people through difficult times and this is a brilliant example.”

The leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group, coun Nigel Ayre, said: “I’ve been led to believe that this paper would outline how Labour would ask businesses, other organisations and individuals to fund their eye-watering manifesto pledge to deliver a free school meal for every primary school child. This report doesn’t do that.”

He added: “It’s absolutely clear that the only solution is national, guaranteed funding.”

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Coun Claire Douglas, the leader of the council, said: “This is the first stage in actually putting that structure around community funds that means that we can fundraise and have an entity to carry those donations.”

She added: “Free school meals are an element of that but we also hope to run the fund for other projects as well. Environmental and biodiversity gain for example would be on that list. So over time, this entity is going to be able to help us deliver for the city of York and for our people.

“As we have said, and I have said many times, we are going to do this. We need to do things differently in this city in order to deliver for the people and the things that they would like to see from us as a local authority.”

Coun Webb has previously acknowledged that it could cost in the region of £3,000,000 to fund the pledge.

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A pilot scheme will begin next year at Westfield Primary School, which is in one of the poorest areas of York.

Henri Murison, the chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, has been supportive of the scheme and previously said: “These targeted interventions may be a better return on investment than universal measures. I expect the mission to improve educational outcomes will be one of the key debate issues in the upcoming mayoral election.”