LABOUR leaders from across Oxfordshire have said the Government has 'shamefully failed our children in need' by not providing free school meals during holidays. 

Oxfordshire's Labour councillors sent an email to the county's four Conservative MPs and the county council leaders yesterday voicing their concerns about the decision not to provide vulnerable children across the country with much-needed food over this half term. 

The statement also called on the county council to follow in the footsteps of the Labour led Oxford city council 'supporting children with school meals voucher scheme and working with many local community groups to supply families with food over half term.' 

All four of the county's Tory MPs voted against providing food vouchers for disadvantaged children outside of term-time.

Read here: Free school meals: how did Oxfordshire MPs vote? 

The statement, titled 'Still time to stop Oxfordshire children going hungry', said:

"In Oxfordshire as around the country, we have seen many individuals and many local businesses (some struggling themselves during this time of economic hardship) step up to take the place of government who have so shamefully failed our children in need.

"We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has offered help. Thank you for your generosity.

“National government may have abrogated their responsibility to feed our children, but we call on all our councils to step up.

"Oxfordshire Labour leader Liz Brighouse has already written to the Conservative leader to ask Oxfordshire County Council to step up to the plate in the absence of government support.

Read also: Over 10,000 children in Oxfordshire are eligible for free school meals

"As Labour leaders in councils across the County we call on the leaders of all Oxfordshire’s councils, and Conservative MPs in our county, to make feeding children our priority this half term, and follow the lead of Oxford City Council.

"We also appeal to the Government to change its position and extend the free school meals support scheme through half term and prepare for the same at Christmas.  

"It is not right that here in Oxfordshire, children are going to go hungry over the school holiday.

"Working together, across party lines and across district boundaries, councils in Oxfordshire can make sure that does not happen in spite of national government.

"And it is not too late for national government, and local Conservative MPs, to change their mind. Let’s do the right thing, support our communities and local businesses who have shown they are willing and ready to help. So should we.”

The statement comes as small businesses and food banks around Oxfordshire have started to provide free school meals for those children in need around the county.

Read more here: Oxfordshire businesses pick up the slack after Government fails to provide free holiday meals to children

Councillor Duncan Enright, Leader of the Labour & Co-operative group on West Oxfordshire District County Council said:

“The community response to the government’s awful decision not to support free school meals during the holidays is nothing short of magnificent. We are a county and country with heart. 

"Our councils need to provide a framework and what resources we can to make sure no child goes hungry, and we want our Conservative MPs to reconsider and get Westminster to do the same. 

"That’s why Labour council leaders took the step of issuing a joint letter. Together we can look after each other in these tough times.”

Read here: Oxfordshire MPs respond to free school meal vote

Oxfordshire County Council has said: 

"Help continues to be available, should it be required, during half term in Oxfordshire for families of children in receipt of free school meals.

"All six Oxfordshire councils have been working together very closely with community and voluntary partners to help families across the county access food and essential supplies.

"Support mechanisms are in place to help vulnerable families, and these have been targeted at those who need it most.

"Oxfordshire’s councils have a strong track record of delivery through third-sector partners and these links shone through during the lockdown period earlier this year.

"Oxfordshire County Council has already passed a grant of more than £500,000 – received from central government on 31 July – to the district councils; Good Food Oxford and South Oxfordshire Food and Education Alliance.

"Countywide services for children are open as normal during half term to respond to families needing assistance."