£53,681 of COVID Emergency Relief Fund waiting to be spent at Cherwell


Banbury’s MP says local councils should address the Free School Meals issue using the government money allocated to them

Cherwell is the latest local Council to highlight what it is doing to fight food poverty.   The statement reveals £53,681 of the funds received from central government currently remaining.   So far the Council has issued four grants.   However the criteria for the award of funding appears to exclude many of the businesses that are this week supplying Free School Meals.

Last week Banbury’s MP Victoria Prentis said that government money given to local councils was “to help those most in need to afford food and other essentials.”

Cherwell received £116,326 of government grant funding from DEFRA via the County Council in the summer.   Of this money the Council says that £45,000 has been allocated to a hardship fund administered by Citizens Advice.

The remaining £71,326 is funding a “Community Hub Emergency Relief Fund”, which Cherwell is administering.  This is directed at voluntary and community organisations which run food banks and similar schemes.  To date a quarter of this money (£17,465) has been spent by supporting the Cherwell Larder (£5,000), The Sunshine Centre, Bretch Hill (£5,000), Banbury Mosque (£5,000) and Community First Oxfordshire (£2,465).

A further £53,681 remains unspent, but under the criteria of the scheme most of the local businesses that have stepped in to provide free school meals during Half Term appear to be excluded from access to any funding.  

Cherwell says it has “welcomed the opportunity to continue its longstanding work on holiday hunger”.   It says it will continue to allocate funding from this pot throughout the year as “applications from eligible organisations come forward”.    

The Council also highlights its longstanding Play:Full project, which tackles holiday hunger in the Brighter Futures wards of Banbury. The scheme sees the council work with the groups who provide holiday activity sessions to provide the children who attend them with free healthy lunches or snacks.

Last week after voting against extending the national Free School Meals scheme in a Parliamentary vote, Banbury’s MP Victoria Prentis pointed to local councils as the people who should be addressing the issue.   Mrs Prentis said, “The best way to make this happen is not through schools but through the welfare system. An extra £9bn has been put into it to help.

“Local authorities know who are struggling. It is exactly why the Government set up a specific fund of £63 million in June for local authorities to help those most in need to afford food and other essentials.”

A spokesman for Cherwell District Council said, “It is a requirement of the funding agreement that Cherwell made with DEFRA that the council does not distribute the monies to private businesses.

“The Community Hub Emergency Relief Fund has a broad mandate to help tackle the economic effects of COVID and access to food and other essentials and has been running since 1 September.”

Published: by Banbury FM Newsteam

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