Empty plates left outside High Peak MP’s office in free school meals protest

Dozens of people gathered outside High Peak MP Robert Largan’s Whaley Bridge office - leaving empty plates in protest after he voted against extending children’s free school meals during school holidays.

By Ben McVay
Tuesday, 3rd November 2020, 11:47 am

Last month the MP failed to back a Labour motion in Parliament to offer free school meal vouchers during school holidays until Easter 2021.

The motion came following a campaign by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford to see free school meals offered during holidays extended.

On Friday over 30 people descended on his constituency office leaving plates outside daubed with messages condemning the vote.

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Dozens of people left empty plates outside High Peak MP Robert Largan’s Whaley Bridge office in protest after he voted against extending children’s free school meals

Pam Cohen, who organised the demonstration, described the socially-distanced and ‘peaceful’ display as ‘very sad’ and accused the MP of ‘using his constituents to get on in Government’.

She said: “There were some very meaningful messages saying this is hurting people when they’re already going through enough.

“It was a very peaceful event but people are angry - there are so many facing eviction from their homes after losing their jobs due to Covid.

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High Peak MP defends vote over free school meals
On Friday over 30 people descended on his constituency office leaving plates outside daubed with messages condemning Robert's vote

“We have to take responsibility for children - they are our future.”

Part-time care worker and Labour Party activist Pam said there was a feeling among those at the protest on Friday and in the wider community that the High Peak MP was ‘consistently voting against his constituents’.

She said: “I live in New Mills and there’s a lot of poverty - before Helping Hands Food Bank was set up there were people actually walking from New Mills to Glossop to access theirs.

“Children are being deprived of so much while their parents struggle in reduced incomes.”

The demonstration came as an online petition calling for a vote of no confidence in Robert following last month’s vote has reached over 700 signatures.

Reacting to Friday’s protest High Peak MP Robert Largan described the gathering outside his office as primarily made up of ‘Labour activists’

He said: “It was disappointing that they seemed to ignore social distancing rules and created an obstruction on the high street in Whaley Bridge - including blocking access to a dentist.

"Covid cases are on the rise locally and we all need to act responsibly.

"I went to my local comprehensive in Manchester and my mum grew up on free school meals.

"This is an issue I take extremely seriously - people on all sides of the political divide recognise the serious challenge of food poverty and agree that action is needed.

"We only disagree on the best way of helping people.”

The MP added that it was important to stress that there were no changes to free school meals currently on offer.

He said: “Free school meals continue to be served to over one million children every school day.

"To help further during this difficult time we've brought in an emergency increase of £20 per week to universal credit and provided over £800,000 to Conservative-run Derbyshire County Council to take a targeted local approach to supporting the most vulnerable children.

“This includes offering food boxes to parents, supporting holiday hunger clubs and giving substantial funding directly to local charities."

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.