Lib Dems announce plans for free school meals for 11,429 more primary school children in West Sussex

31 May 2024
A boy holding a plate of food after leaving the dinner line.

Free school meals a must for all primary school children say the Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems have announced plans to extend free school meals to all primary school children. Under current government rules, children from year 3 and above can only benefit from free school meals under strict conditions. For West Sussex that’s just 6,677 children, which means almost 85% miss out.

The party’s plan also includes an immediate extension of free school meals to all secondary age children living in poverty. This is estimated to be 150,000 in the South East.

Analysis by PWC found that every £1 spent on free school meals for the poorest children generates £1.38 in health and earnings benefits, including improvements to children’s health, education and future working life opportunities. 

The manifesto pledge would be funded by a 4% levy on the share buybacks of FTSE 100 listed corporations, similar to the excise tax on buybacks implemented by President Biden in the US, which could raise around £1.4bn a year.

Share buybacks occur when companies use profits to inflate their own share price, a practice which critics have warned can come at the expense of productive investment in the economy.

The new policy makes the Liberal Democrats the most ambitious party on free school meals. 

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Horsham, John Milne said: 

“Across West Sussex, there are too many children expected to learn on empty stomachs with no guarantee of a hot meal when they get home. 

“Extending free school meals is a proven way to combat family poverty, but it will also boost children’s academic performance. Conservative MPs should hang their heads in shame at a legacy of children going hungry in the worst cost of living crisis in a generation. 

“I am proud the Liberal Democrats have the most ambitious plan for free school meals of any party, which would save parents money and transform the future for millions of children.”

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