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Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council and MP Ben Bradley accused of lying over school meals by Independent Alliance county councillor at county and the deputy mayor of London

An MP and leader of Nottinghamshire County Council has been accused of lying over free school meals.

Ben Bradley was accused of misleading the county council by the deputy mayor of London, Shirley Rodrigues, who is responsible for the environment and energy – but still stands by his comments.

In a debate over whether the county council should investigate rolling out Universal Free School meals in September, Mr Bradley claimed that London mayor Sadiq Khan paid for free school meals using money from the ULEZ charge.

Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council Ben Bradley.
Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council Ben Bradley.

In a letter to the Independent Alliance group on Nottinghamshire County Council, deputy mayor Shirley Rodrigues said that ULEZ ‘does not fund’ the free school meal programme.

She added: “It is a statutory requirement that any and all net proceeds from the ULEZ are reinvested back into implementing the policies and proposals set out in the mayor’s transport strategy.

“The mayor was able to provide the emergency funding for free school meals for primary children in state-funded schools for the 2023-24 academic year due to higher than forecast business rates revenue.”

Independent Alliance councillor Francis Purdue-Horan supported the deputy mayor’s claims and accused Mr Bradley of being deliberately misleading in a full council meeting.

He said: “Councillor Bradley lied to Nottinghamshire County Council in a full council meeting on September 27.

“He knew that. We knew that. He has since repeated this lie and we thank the deputy mayor of London for setting the record straight.

“Ben Bradley managed to turn a vital debate about child poverty into a debate about ULEZ.

“Ben Bradley should be ashamed of himself. If this was the House of Commons, he would be dragged back to the Commons for a shame-faced apology.

“He should make a statement at the next council meeting in December and apologise.”

At the same full council meeting, the Independent Alliance said that 52,029 children were living in poverty across the county.

From that number, it claimed 25,360 children don’t qualify for free school meals due to a ‘low bar on eligibility’.

Mr Bradley said: “It is perfectly reasonable to suggest that when an organisation is raising a tax of £300m against London’s drivers, whilst simultaneously announcing £130m of new spending to offer free meals to the children of rich people who do not need them, then one is paying for the other.

“It’s easy enough to move numbers around in the spreadsheets to blur the lines, but that money doesn’t just grow on trees. It comes from taxes. Motorists are being taxed extra whilst money is being spent on giving millionaires free food. That much is clear and visible to everyone. Sadiq is quite literally taxing the poor to feed the rich, and it’s immoral.

‘’I stand fully by what I said, and fully behind my commitment that if elected as Mayor of the East Midlands I will never introduce reductive new taxes like ULEZ that hit working people, and that disproportionately impact the poorest.

“If the Ashfield Independent Party are consistent in their stance, then it must also be safe to assume that their support for Sadiq’s plans extends to their own recently announced candidate for Mayor, who we can now assume would introduce similar ULEZ schemes across the East Midlands if elected. I don’t think that will help his election prospects.’’

The Conservative-led county council’s plan to increase the cost of school meals by 40p is currently on hold due to a campaign by opposition councillors.

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