‘Parents have a responsibility’: top Conservative refuses to support campaign to feed hungry children

Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for adult social care and public health. Pic: No

Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for adult social care and public health. Pic: Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

A county councillor responsible for vulnerable adults has refused to support a campaign to feed children left hungry during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mike Smith-Clare

Mike Smith-Clare - Credit: Archant

Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council (NCC) cabinet member for adult social services, was contacted by the organisation Norfolk Against Holiday Hunger to ask for his support.

The campaign aims to expand the free school meals voucher scheme - which was extended to cover the school summer break during the coronavirus pandemic - to all school holidays and to include a broader group of pupils.

In an email seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), Mr Borrett said: “I do not support your campaign. I believe that parents have a responsibility to look after their children and I understand that the benefits system is already there to support those in genuine need.”

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Mr Borrett’s response was criticised by Charlotte Godden, chairman of the campaign, who said poorer families had been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 crisis and had been left reliant on “foodbanks and the kindness of strangers”.

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She said: “It’s not what we were hoping for but it is what we expected. It’s a massive shame. No one in Britain should be struggling to feed their children. We don’t all think like Bill.”

Ms Godden highlighted the five-week wait to access Universal Credit and said appeals took up to eight weeks - meaning some parents went hungry to ensure their children were fed.

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Labour county councillor Mike Smith Clare said: “It just shows how little he knows or cares about the heartbreaking reality of hunger. He holds a position of authority which, alongside accountability to the people of Norfolk, should necessitate an understanding of their actual needs.”

He added: “Sadly Mr Borrett appears to lack the empathy, knowledge or appreciation of how desperately difficult lives have become. It’s time he climbed down from his judgmental, self-righteous gilded tower and found some decency and compassion.”

Mr Borrett said: “I am disappointed but not surprised at the personal attack from Mr Smith-Claire. I am very proud that Britain invests billions of pounds a year in its welfare state to make sure children with a genuine need do not go hungry.

“As usual this is political posturing from the Labour Party, not a common-sense response.”

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