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Use the extra £54m to fund free school meals in Wales

RCT Welsh Liberal Democrats

It has been confirmed in today's Autumn Statement that Wales is to receive over £54m due to the Liberal Democrats' free school meals policy in English schools.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are repeating their calls on the Welsh Labour Government to use this extra funding to introduce a similar scheme for Welsh infants.

In England, the Coalition Government is making free school meals available for all infant school children and disadvantaged college students from September 2014. Because of this policy, Wales will receive £54m.

In total, Wales is to receive £233m in Barnett consequentials. The Welsh Government's funding will increase by £192m over the next two years.

Aled Roberts, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Minister, said:

"Free school meals not only encourage positive eating habits and help to improve concentration in the classroom, but would also mean significant savings for families.

"The Welsh Liberal Democrats understand the financial strain families are under and we are doing all we can to help people in difficult times. Families spend around £430 on school meals in a year. We want the Welsh Labour Government to introduce free school meals to ease the pressure families in Wales are under.

"This policy would ensure that every infant school pupil can sit down to a hot, healthy lunch with their classmates every day. It will help with their studies and also ensure they are receiving a healthy diet.

"The Welsh Labour Government claim that offering free school breakfasts is enough. They are wrong. While the scheme has merits, take-up is very low. Figures show that only around 22% of pupils are currently arriving early to school to receive their free breakfast. Offering free school lunches would mean it reaches every child."

Commenting on the Autumn Statement, Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats:

"This Autumn Statement shows that Britain is on its way back. The Liberal Democrats are sticking to our plans to make sure this is a recovery that is built to last. That is the only way to improve living standards.

"I am pleased that from April 2015 onwards, employer National Insurance contributions (NICs) will be abolished for under 21 year olds. This will make it over £500 a year cheaper to employ an under 21 year old earning £12,000. This will go some way to help reduce the high youth unemployment levels we have here in Wales under Labour.

"Our economy is growing because of the hard work of people and businesses throughout the country. The measures outlined in the Autumn Statement will further help small businesses across Wales.

"Again we are seeing Wales get a better deal due to the Coalition Government protecting England's education and health budgets. Labour planned to cut both of these departments which would have badly hit Wales."

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