Front of Camden Town Hall, Judd Street, London.

Primary school children will get free school meals “forever” in a move announced in Camden’s “cost of living budget” at the full council meeting on Monday 27 February.

Council leader Georgia Gould said primary school children will get free school meals in a “permanent” move.

“People are coming to us in tears because they can’t feed their family. ”

She said the growth of food banks should not be considered as normal.

It follows London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s announcement of a £130m fund to feed 270,000 young Londoners during their next school year.

This year’s budget also sees council tax increase by the maximum 4.99 percent allowed without going to a referendum.

Rents for council homes are going up by seven percent after the government ended a freeze on increases.

Richard Olszewski, the Cabinet member for finance, said the budget was in response to the cost of living and sees the council extend its £2m hardship fund this year.

It comes after the council made £197m savings by the end of 2022/23.

He said “sadly we have to increase council tax” by the maximum and pointed out Camden gets one of the lowest amounts of government funding to councils in London.

The Labour controlled council is spending £29m on a 100 percent council tax support scheme so 16,000 families do not have to pay any council tax.

Residents living in Band D homes will pay £1,466 towards council services, with an extra contribution to the Greater London Authority for services including police and fire which takes it up to £1,900 a year.

The Liberal Democrat opposition said the council could go further and offer the free school dinners from April, instead of waiting until the autumn.

Leader Tom Simon said some of the council’s choices were the “wrong ones.”

His group proposed renting out three floors in the underused council offices in Pancras Square, using the £1.8m  income to fund school dinners “for secondary school students from low income families and, providing free school meals from primary school pupils from Easter and supporting families with the cost of school uniform.”

He added: “The cost of living crisis is hitting families now.”

Other suggestions included grants to address hygiene poverty and a senior planning officer to check how green proposed new developments are.

The Conservative group suggested extending the opening hours at Swiss Cottage library, including Sunday opening so people have a warm hub and place to go for free.

It also wanted to rent out two floors of Pancras Square.

Leader Gio Spinella also said the council could share digital, HR, legal and procurement services with Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster councils. The two authorities already share some services to save money and Cllr Spinella said “their knowledge is there” in making it work.

Cllr Olszweski said it was not practical to rent out space in Pancras Square as people are working from home less and its not yet known how much space is needed.

The council urged people facing problems paying their bills to get in touch for help.

It has also produced a cost of living booklet with details of other support.

Camden Council: full Council – Monday, 27th February, 2023 7.00 pm.