A hungry child cannot learn: Cllr Scott Ainslie on the Right to Food

Scott’s speech on Labour’s Food motion, Full Council 19 October 2022

A hungry child cannot learn.

That won’t come as a revelation to anyone in this room. 

Nor, I think, would anyone here disagree that preventing our poorest and most vulnerable from going hungry ought to be our top priority. Because if we cannot do that, we cannot do anything else.

Yet hungry children – and adults – has become a price deemed worth paying for the destructive and embarrassing chaos, cruelty and incompetence of a ruling Conservative party that ought to have been shown the door a long time ago.

Lambeth Green Party is prepared to support the Labour motion, declaring Lambeth a Right to Food borough, but not uncritically.  The motion, we note, contains little of substance, and far fewer commitments to act than to speak.

A letter to the Secretary of State of a government that has only worsened inequality is going straight in the shredder.

Lobbying for Universal Free School Meals is a far cry from implementing the policy yourselves. That would cost money, but Labour-run councils like Islington Council, Southwark and Newham have shown that it is something that can be done. There can be no more worthwhile investment. The final clause of the motion says you will “Strengthen Lambeth’s Food Poverty and Insecurity Action Plan.” What does this even mean? What measures will you take to do this? How do you intend to measure the results?

Labour touts the success of the Fridge and Freezer Fund, as if we should accept that as read. Where are we with it? How much was in it? It is almost a year since Love Lambeth promised to announce the details of Phase 2 of the Fund. Well, where is it?

Lambeth is demonstrably failing when it comes to public health. Male life expectancy in the borough is the 2nd lowest in London. Female life expectancy is 5th lowest.

That is why wishy-washy words and pleas up the chain are not enough. Yes there are limits on what you can do, but that does not mean you cannot do more than you have.

Follow the lead of The Green Party which has for years led the way on policies to reduce poverty. Not only would we restore the £20 universal credit uplift, we’d double it, bring in a universal basic income and raise the minimum wage to £15/hour. Unlike Labour we have repeatedly backed the unions as they resist the downward pressures and exploitations of profit-seeking corporate bosses. 

More than a century since Margaret McMillan persuaded parliament to bring in free school meals for the most in need we have made little progress.

While I welcome this motion as a step towards something significant, we can and should go further, because when the national government fails to protect its citizens, local government must show the leadership required and take the necessary action to do so.

Cllr Scott Ainslie

Local News

To top