A council is making more than £19,000 available to help struggling families during half-term.

Carlisle City Council has allocated £500 per councillor to use for Covid-19 projects in their wards.

The initiative was dreamt up by the council’s deputy leader and councillor for Belah and Kingmoor, Gareth Ellis, who is using his money to help provide lunches to children in his ward. Asda, Morrisons and Kingmoor Post Office have already pledged their support.

“Some people have the presumption I am just a Tory but I was brought up in a homeless shelter and free school meals were part of my life,” he explained.

“We never went hungry but we’ve had people over the last six months who’ve had support that have never done so before.

"We don’t know if children will go hungry, but one of the privileges of being in a position of responsibility is you can see there could be problem and you can act to hopefully address it.

“It is coming from the covid-related support from the Government. It is not usually Government’s responsibility to provide free school meals, but we are in a extraordinary situation and we want to make sure children don’t go hungry.”

When pressed on whether he thought MPs should have voted against Labour’s Opposition Day motion to extend free school meals for half-term, Mr Ellis said: “I know why they made the decision. It ultimately would have been the right decision (without a pandemic) as it is something the Government has never done before.

"Parents have a responsibility to look after children.”

However, he acknowledged these are not normal times and that sometimes Government’s “don’t see the overall picture and don’t see the picture on the ground”.

Colin Glover, leader of the Labour group on the council, has donated his £500 to Carlisle Covid-19 Community Help, which has supported families throughout the pandemic.

“It is fair to say this extra funding is really welcome and it has come in just as half-term is starting. It will deal with this coming week, but we need a long-term plan for dealing with poverty - and particularly child poverty - not just a sticking plaster.”

Mr Glover said MPs “misjudged the mood”. For more information, contact your local councillor.