Susan Hall, one of three figures vying to be the Conservative London mayoral candidate for 2024, has said she would extend Mr Khan’s planned free school meal programme “for as long as the cost of living situation requires it”.
The policy, announced by Mr Khan in February, will provide every primary school child in London with free school meals during the 2023/24 academic year.
City Hall said at the time of the £130 million announcement: “This is one-off funding from additional business rates income. Sadiq is clear that he is only able to provide help that should be coming from the Government for one year.”
But Ms Hall’s team said she would take the policy forward into the 2024/25 school year “at a minimum”, if she is selected as her party’s candidate and then elected as Mayor.
Ms Hall said: “While the cost of living situation remains difficult for so many families, it is right that more children have access to free school meals.
“The free school meals programme Sadiq Khan set up is imperfect and could have been better focused on those most in need, but I will make it work and ensure it continues for as long as the cost of living situation requires it. I won’t make any promises I can’t keep.”
Ms Hall, a former leader both of the City Hall Conservative group, and of Harrow Council, has previously questioned aspects of the policy, such as asking whether school kitchens will be sufficiently equipped to deliver it.
City Hall Conservatives, under Ms Hall’s then-leadership, said they welcomed more children having access to free school meals, though they said Mr Khan “should be focusing on those most in need across all schools”, including secondary.
Ms Hall’s team confirmed however she would take the policy forward in Mr Khan’s current proposed form, with universal provision for primary school children, and no additional support at secondary level.
They said she would continue to be able to pay for the policy by utilising the “extra” funds raised though business rates each year, with any shortfalls funded from “other sources”.
On the shortlist for the party’s mayoral candidacy, Ms Hall is going up against former Downing Street aide turned tech entrepreneur Daniel Korski, and criminal barrister Mozammel Hossain KC.
Approached for comment, Mr Korski said he would review the impact of the national free schools programme, which provides for children up to Year 2 and for those from families on benefits, “to understand how best to take it forward beyond 2024”.
He added: “I want to ensure disadvantaged children in our city get the targeted support they need, across all boroughs, and it is not clear that continuing with Khan’s changes in the best way to achieve this.
“I want to look at this issue as a whole, including capital spending and facilities in school, and integrating support schemes like the pupil premium.”
Mr Hossain’s team were also approached for comment, but had not responded at the time of publication.
A Labour source said: ‘Sadiq is proud to be providing free school meals for primary school children in the capital from this September.
“It will provide children with a healthy and nutritious meal and save families hundreds of pounds over the year at a time when many are suffering acutely from the Tories’ cost-of-living crisis.
“Sadiq is stepping up where the Tories have failed to act. While the Government has refused to fund free school meals and address holiday hunger nationally, the Mayor is taking bold action to support families in London and prevent children from going hungry.”