The Liberal Democrats announced yesterday that all children between the ages of five and seven will receive ‘free’ school meals, irrespective of their parents’ income. However, as with any universal benefit, the meals will not free. They will be paid for by every single taxpayer in the country.
The ostensible goals of this policy are irrefutably good: saving families £436 a year at a time when increasing numbers of people are struggling with rising bills is a commendable end. The means of the policy are, however, completely misguided.
It is important that we ensure the right people are receiving help – which is why the government, not unreasonably, provides free school meals for those on the lowest incomes. Universality – costing £600 million a year – is, however, an enormously bad use of public money. It is effectively taxing families on low and middle incomes to subsidise children in affluent families. We are throwing yet more taxpayers’ money at those who scarcely need it, at the cost of those struggling with spiralling living costs.
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