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Last Updated: Friday, 2 March 2007, 11:47 GMT
City votes for free school meals
School dinners - generic
The free meals scheme costs more than 3m a year to fund
A council's plans to save 3m a year by axing free meals for primary school pupils have been blocked.

The cuts were included in budget proposals by Hull's ruling Lib Dem group which were thrown out at a full council meeting on Thursday night.

The council instead backed a series of Labour amendments which also included keeping two homes for the elderly open.

The Lib Dems said the free meals scheme was too expensive and they wanted to focus on education and cutting crime.

In 2004, the Hull's Labour council became the first in England to offer free meals to all primary age children.

We believe it's one of the most important ways we can ensure the wellbeing of our children
Councillor Ken Branson

After Thursday's meeting, Labour group leader, councillor Ken Branson, said: "We are more than aware of the controversy of free school meals but we believe it's one of the most important ways we can ensure the wellbeing of our children.

"Nationally we have received a lot of support for the policy and we have also had a lot of favourable comments from Europe."

Mr Branson said Labour needed to take control of the council in the elections on 3 May to make sure the amendments were adhered to.

Lib Dem council leader, Councillor Carl Minns, said the Labour amendments would lead to job cuts and extra financial pressure on the council.

He said his administration was "totally committed" to providing healthy meals for pupils but budget pressures meant the scheme was "unaffordable".

"Cutting crime and making sure we have got a decent education system in place are our priorities.

"We will be taking our case to the people of Hull on 3 May and it's up to them fundamentally to decide who runs this council."


SEE ALSO
School meals 'must be made free'
26 Apr 05 |  Education
Free dinners for primary pupils
19 Apr 04 |  Humber
Pupils promised free school meals
13 Feb 04 |  Education

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