POLITICIANS from across the council have welcomed additional funding to help feed families this winter.
Wokingham Borough Council’s Conservative Group says it welcomes the Covid Winter Grant Scheme, which will deliver £208,703 to help borough residents hit hardest by the pandemic.
The ring-fenced funding is part of a package of £170million being handed to councils across England to provide further support to families who need help with food and bills over the coming months.
Alongside the Covid Winter Grant Scheme, the Government is delivering a further £220million in extending the Holiday and Food Programme until Christmas 2021.
Children eligible for Free School Meals will be given the option of joining a holiday-time programme providing healthy food and activities throughout next year.
John Halsall, leader of Wokingham Borough Council and the Conservative Group, said: “Through no fault of their own, Covid-19 has left many in difficulty across the Borough as they struggle to make ends meet.
“As Conservatives, we believe that, during these extraordinary times, it’s the job of Central and Local Governmentto step up and stand behind people in need.
“No child should go hungry, and we lobbied our colleagues in Government to do everything possible to prevent this happening.”
He added: “I’m pleased that Conservatives in Government have heard our concerns, and are providing this additional funding to help families buy food, as well as extending the Holiday Activities and Food Programme.
“While Conservatives are in charge of this Council, we will continue to strive to end hardship wherever we find it in this Borough.”
And Wokingham’s Liberal Democrats has welcomed the funding.
Cllr Lindsay Ferris, the group’s leader, said that the announcement was “very good news indeed”.
He added: “We do need to see what the proposals actually mean and also what Wokingham Borough Council will be providing as a result.”
The Wokingham Liberal Democrat Group previously submitted a motion urging the borough council to develop its own free school meals arrangement throughout Christmas and into the new year.
And Cllr Ferris believes the government’s announcement now “provides the council with the necessary finance to provide such a service.”
He says the Liberal Democrat group on Wokingham Borough Council will be pressing the council on what the free school meal arrangements will be.
And it wants to know how the council will work with schools and local charities to ensure children get the food they need.
Cllr Prue Bray, Liberal Democrat councillor for Winnersh and leader of the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, also welcomed the funding but said she feared it is not enough.
“The decision came too late for October half-term,” she said.
“Many businesses, charities, individuals and local authorities around the country stepped in to fill the gap then – although shamefully, not Wokingham Borough Council.”
Cllr Bray is also concerned about what will happen during February half-term and the holidays throughout next year.
And she said she will be proposing a motion at next week’s borough council meeting.
“I [will be asking] the council to make sure children in our area from low income families have access to food during the holidays,” she said.
Wokingham Borough Council’s November Full Council Meeting will be held on Thursday, November 19.