Less than 24 hours after the beleaguered Labour leader faced an outcry over Ken Livingstone’s Hitler remarks, he has now received a barrage of criticism over a new Labour policy offering free school meals.
Corbyn today announced Labour’s pledge to fund free meals for all primary school-aged children, regardless of parental income. Labour said the move, estimated to cost between £700million and £900million a year, would be paid for by adding VAT to private school fees.
Speaking with the shadow education secretary Angela Rayner at an event in Lancashire, Corbyn said he wanted to ensure children get the “basic right of a healthy lunch at school”, and “remove the stigma” associated with free meals.
Needless to say, the policy has not gone down well with everyone.
Opponents have argued that there is nothing wrong with existing means-tested free school meals, and to offer them to all pupils would be a waste of public money.
I despair I really do. Spending £1bn on free school meals when school budgets are under immense pressure is dreadfu… https://t.co/RZ7MNNdak8
However, many praised Corbyn’s announcement and couldn’t see what the fuss was about.
Supporters pointed out that there were many children who would benefit from free school meals but who do not currently meet the right criteria.
An expansion of free school meals for all infant pupils was introduced by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government under Nick Clegg, but Labour now wants to extend the policy to seven to 11-year-olds if it made it into government.
The Lib Dems promised the same move in their 2015 general election manifesto.
Bet there's journalists negatively spinning Labour's #FreeSchoolMeals policy who were applauding it when LibDem's were touting it.
— The Awakend #EL4C (@The Awakend #EL4C)
The Fabian Society estimated in 2010 that introducing VAT on private school fees would raise £1.5billion a year – more than enough to cover the expected cost of the meals.