Derby City Council

Holiday Hunger: £1.2m “additional” money yet the Tories continue to be vague on Derby’s response.

At the Cabinet meeting on 9th June 2021, it was announced that the Council had just been made aware (since 2nd June2021) of an additional £1.195m, from the Government, for the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme ( local clubs to support children during school holidays who are entitled to Free School Meals.)

It should have been good news!

Why were the Cabinet and Senior Officers so reticent about “celebrating” this additional money for the vulnerable children in Derby in tackling holiday hunger

This is not additional money! The Cabinet don’t want further scrutiny!

Full Council commitment for free school meal vouchers

At the Full Council meeting in November 2020, a majority of the 51 Cllrs resolved to provide meal vouchers, during all holiday periods/lockdowns, for all children eligible for Free School Meals including those in families on Universal Credit / Low incomes. This is a population of around 11,000 children

Increase in Council Tax for 2021/22 of 0.5%

The Tory administration’s response to this motion was to budget £386k for vouchers for the 2 weeks of the Spring / Autumn half term, and an additional 10,000 food parcels for £187k, totalling £573k – which was funded by the 0.5% rise in Council Tax. This would not have delivered the Full Council’s expectations.

Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) Programme.

The Government announced, formally on 29 January 2021 ( stated in the Cabinet paper of 13th Jan 2021) a £220m fund for the HAF programme, nationally, and that Derby would receive £1,195,270.

Cabinet knew before budget setting that the Council would receive £1.195m for Holiday Activities and Food programme – total fund £220m
£220m funding referenced in the January 2021 Cabinet paper

(This funding is for a holiday club/activity programme with a free school provision – not for a food voucher scheme)

Payment is made in stages based on satisfactory delivery / future plans. The 50% due in June is based on the success of the Easter provision.

From the Department of Education notification of 29th Jan 2021

Who’s getting the funding?

The inital 50% tranche of the money (£0.7m) will go to Community Action Derby (CAD) . CAD is a professional charity focussing on partnership / infrastructure support – not expert in co-ordinating children’s holiday club activities

Comment

The Tory Cabinet and Senior Officers have been very evasive and opaque in answering any specific questions on the delivery of the November 2020 motion.

At the Cabinet Meeting on the 9th June, Pauline Anderson, Director Learning, Skills and Inclusion, confirmed that 13,859 children attended the Easter programme. The programme covered 4 days of the 11 day Easter Holiday.

  • There was no clarity on whether the 13,859 was “total visits” or “unique individuals”. Most likely that this would be total visits to clubs. A reasonable assumption would be that it covered, at best, ~ 30% of eligible children
  • No clarity as to whether all children attending were eligible.
  • No detail on how many food parcels were issued to those not attending.
  • No food vouchers issued to children who couldn’t attend or were unaware of the option.
  • There was no input on how children were supported for the other 7 days of the holiday.

In 5-6 weeks time the School Summer holidays will start. No one at yesterday’s meeting seemed willing to elaborate on the plans for the 4 weeks of holiday club provision. The only indication was that £0.7m will be granted to CAD.

The food voucher scheme was suggested by the Council as it would be inclusive and dignified. A holiday activity club is a euphemism for a “poor kids” club and, for many, that will undermine their personal dignity, potentially leading to non-attendance.

The rhetoric from the Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr Nicola Roulstone, suggested that people who needed food support, also needed education in budgetting and training on how to manage their spending. A patronising perspective.

The Tory Cabinet has not provisioned for the comprehensive Food Voucher scheme determined by Full Council in November 2020. It is clear that they do not believe in the need to ensure that all vulnerable children are fed during school holidays. Their actions support the conclusion that they simply want to “fudge” a response to this social issue based on the poorly conceived Government “poor kids” club approach.

On top of this, then there is the issue that Officers are misleading Cllrs. The Council were advised in January 2021 of the full £1.195m funding – not “recently”. This is factually incorrect. Such information should have been part of the debate in Full Council.

Factually incorrect – the Council were advised 6 months ago!

There is a constitutional question here about why, and how, the Cabinet can ignore the democratic wishes of the 51 elected Cllrs.

Also why does the Tory Cabinet not want to unambiguously demonstrate that they are taking Holiday Hunger in Derby seriously? The City needs less “bluff and bluster” from the Tories on such an important subject.

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