Councillors use allowance increase to fund free school meals at town cafe

Councillors Caroline Topping and Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw at the Town House Cafe in Beccles. PHOTO:

Councillors Caroline Topping and Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw at the Town House Cafe in Beccles. PHOTO: Caroline Topping - Credit: Archant

Two councillors have used their increased allowance to pay for dozens of children to be fed during the half-term holiday.

Caroline Topping and Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw, who represent Beccles on East Suffolk Council, teamed up with the Town House Cafe, on The Walk, to provide meals for 35 children during the week.

The move came after MPs rejected England and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford’s bid to extend free school meals to children during half-term holidays.

Mrs Topping said: “Following the general debate leading up to the October half-term holiday on Free School Meals, I thought it would be a good ideaa to contact the Town House Cafe, in Beccles, and see if they were able, and had the capacity, to provide free children’s meals.

“This was predominately for those children who would have had free school meals, but not exclusively and other children that needed feeding were also welcomed.

“Elfrede and I had decided it was inappropriate to accept our council allowance increase at this time, when so many people were struggling, so used this money to fund the scheme.”

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Mrs Brambley-Crawshaw, who also represents the ward on Suffolk County Council, urged those in the town to support the cafe, as well as other independent businesses, once non-essential shops reopen following the second coronavirus lockdown.

Last month, this newspaper launched their campaign to urge residents in Norfolk and Suffolk to Shop Local to back businesses during this time.

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She said: “When Caroline mentioned her idea to me I was delighted to support it.

“It is very worrying that families might not be able to feed their children in our community.

“The Town House Cafe has had to close now for lockdown, along with many other small businesses in Beccles.

“They are so important to our community and I urge everyone to support them when they re-open in December. Many local businesses are offering click and collect during lockdown and this is a brilliant way to support local businesses and get Christmas shopping done.”

Last month, Waveney MP Peter Aldous defended the government’s position last month, saying the bid to extend free school meals was “not a long-term solution.”

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