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Wyre Forest Labour recently drew attention to a sneaky Tory plan to cut the free school meals of 800 of Wyre Forest’s poorest children. Labour has managed to force a vote on this issue in Parliament this week. 

Wyre Forest Labour is urging Wyre Forest’s Tory MP, Mark Garnier, to vote with Labour and protect free school meals for the children of some of his poorest constituents.

This week will see a vote on this matter that Labour has forced in Parliament. Our Tory MP Mark Garnier has been decidedly quiet on it. The fact that the price for the DUP propping up this moribund Tory Government is free school meals for the poorest in Northern Ireland not being under threat of being removed says it all. What’s good enough for Northern Ireland’s poorest families is good enough for the rest of the UK. Well this week we’ll get the chance to see whether Mark Garnier again reveals his true Tory colours. If he votes to cut free school meals from 800 of the poorest kids in Wyre Forest we’ll know for sure he holds his poorer constituents in contempt. No doubt he’ll try and dress it up in platitudes about him really caring but most of us know his usual routine in baloney when we hear it.

Letter to Mark Garnier

In responding to Mark Garnier’s reply to my letter on 800 children losing free school meals in Wyre Forest, Stephen Brown said “I’m not misinformed Mark, and frankly it’s a lazy excuse because children will lose out when they change schools, so my figures of about 800 in Wyre Forest are accurate over the timescales I predicted.”

“This is all about the Tories cutting £600million from Universal Credit and Mark should just be honest enough to admit it. But policy honesty isn’t his strongpoint is it.”

“Nor is anyone suggesting 50% of children should or are eligible under Universal Credit so that’s a red herring. This is about the Tories slashing the threshold on earnings in half, with the result being local children in the poorest families being targeted and losing eligibility for free school meals. The fact Mark demonstrates no empathy with the impact of that is revealing in itself of his lack of concern for a good number of his constituents.”

“Is Mark also suggesting we should align with all Scottish practices then? How about scrapping student tuition fees then for a start? A vacuous reply in my opinion but at least Mark replied. There will however be a health and social care impact down the line, which will result in additional cost to the taxpayer, so this is a brutal and unnecessary cut meaning it’s ideologically driven and a false economy.”

Stephen Brown

From: "GARNIER, Mark" <>
Date: 13 March 2018 at 13:22:01 GMT
To: Stephen Brown
Subject: FW: Parliamentary Free School Meals vote

Dear Stephen

Thank you for contacting me about eligibility for free school meals under Universal Credit.

Your suggestion that children will lose out on free school meals is misinformed. This suggestion is based on a hypothetical situation where all children in receipt of Universal Credit receive free school meals, which was never the intention. If all children in families receiving Universal Credit were to become eligible for free school meals, around 50 per cent of all school aged pupils would be eligible. Instead, free school meals are rightly targeted at the children who need them most, with around 14 per cent of children eligible for and claiming free school meals last year. The approach of setting an income threshold is comparable to the approach taken in Scotland where a similar net earnings threshold was introduced in August 2017.

You may be encouraged to learn that the Department for Education recently ran a public consultation, seeking the views of parents, schools, local authorities and charities on eligibility for free school meals. In light of this, the Department has proposed transitional protections so that nobody currently receiving free school meals will lose their entitlement when moving onto Universal Credit.

Kind Regards


-----Original Message-----
From: Stephen Brown
Sent: 12 March 2018 14:12
To: GARNIER, Mark <>
Subject: Parliamentary Free School Meals vote

Dear Mark,

Can you tell me which way you’ll be voting this week on this matter please now that there will be a vote forced through by Labour?

I’m sure the parents of the 800 children who were set to lose out under the originally intended non votable statutory instrument would be keen to know where you stand.

Keeping their free school meals or voting for cuts of another £600million to some of societies poorest and most vulnerable children?

I hope you vote against this cut and would urge you to do so.

Yours sincerely,
Stephen Brown
Wyre Forest Labour

There are around 12,000 children of school age in Wyre Forest, and 3,400 of them will already be living in households deemed to be in poverty. The average eligibility in the Midlands for free school meals is 14.9% and in Wyre Forest it’s higher at 18.9%.

It means we currently have a potential for 2,200 children to benefit from school meals in the District, which is less than the 3,400 deemed to be officially classed as living ‘in poverty’. If this Tory plan happens, I calculate that we could see free school meals eligibility cut by 36% and 800 children in some of the already poorest families losing out.

Children eating school mealLow pay is currently a huge problem in Wyre Forest with 8,500 affected. Just how they'll cope when many of them find out from their upcoming Universal Credit assessment it will mean the loss of free school meals for their children is anyone’s guess. I can’t see their employer readily agreeing to pay them £1,000 extra a year to feed each of their children just because the Tories think it’s a good idea to remove their free school meals. Can you? Whilst Wyre Forest MP Mark Garnier trumpets falling unemployment in the District, the reality is, it’s based on false statistics and a low wage, low employment rights, job market; and under this Government, and with a Tory Brexit, there seems little chance of an economic boom to increase workers’ wages. In 8 years he’s done nothing about low pay which has stagnated at 2008 levels. In 8 years he’s also voted for every welfare cut and every austerity measure that detrimentally affects the most vulnerable. This will be another example of that. So, my question to Mark Garnier is, ‘given the reality of low pay here, how many families will be hit by this change, how many children will suffer, what’s he going to do about it, and does he even care?’ I suspect the answer will be, ‘don’t know, don’t know, nothing, and no’. The usual mealy mouth platitudes and a letter to the Minister aside of course.

Wyre Forest needs a people’s champion as MP to address some of the serious economic, poverty, health, housing, and educational attainment issues we face. Mark Garnier is not that champion, he just sees us as ‘dog end voters’ who, when his cuts hit, are mere ‘statistical anomalies’. He’s ill equipped to be our MP. Nevertheless, I’m urging him, if he really cares about his constituency, to resist this plan and vote against it. The question is, does he have the guts?

Stephen Brown

Wyre Forest Labour

800 children in Wyre Forest set to lose free school meals

Labour puts pressure on MP Mark Garnier over Free School Meals vote

Wyre Forest Labour recently drew attention to a sneaky Tory plan to cut the free school meals of 800 of Wyre Forest’s poorest children. Labour has managed to force a...

Wyre Forest Labour today rallied around our local market traders, who face a threat to their livelihoods thanks to yet another daft decision by the Tory District Council.

Wyre Forest District Council wants to kick local traders off their pitches in favour of International traders on 3 dates in the year: 24th March, 14th July, & 1st December.

The most crucial of these dates is 1st December as the traders do a lot of pre-Christmas trade that makes up for lean periods and carries them through January, and so making a large dent in their income.

Nick Savage, Kidderminster Market Trader (left) with Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Labour (right)Labour Plan Action To Support Our Market Traders:

Wyre Forest Labour Party will be leafleting shoppers this coming Saturday 17th March, between 10.00am and 12.00midday. Please come and join us – contact Market Trader Nick Savage if you can help on

Wyre Forest Labour Press Officer, Stephen Brown, said “The local market traders are happy to share the market and work together with the international market traders, but their requests to the Council have been rejected. They have a right to know why, and what’s in it for the Council?”

“A shared market would mean everyone wins, local traders, international traders, and local people. It will help keep the town centre vibrant, especially in these hard times. Local Market Traders and their shoppers keep money in the town and in the local economy, International Traders don’t. Surely the Council has a duty to look after local people and the local economy? We’ll therefore be helping the traders leaflet shoppers this coming Saturday to raise awareness of their situation. Our local traders deserve our support, not least because many local people use the market and rely on it. Traders tell me that for many people the market can be a lifeline, as it offers the chance to get out and about and chat to people and it may be the only time in the week they see or even talk to anyone.”

Nick Savage, a local market trader, and prospective Labour candidate for Offmore & Comberton ward added “I have spoken to the local traders, who are devastated at being kicked off the market on major sales days. They all feel a combined market would make more sense. Many hundreds of shoppers will be denied the goods they need. This is yet another mistake made by the Tory Council who give the impression they don’t care about local traders, local people, or the local economy.”

The public can show support by letting Wyre Forest District Council know what you think:

You can also contact, Nick Savage, market trader and Labour Candidate for Offmore & Comberton Ward, to show your support or offer help on 07790 862071 or

Support Your Local Market Traders

Wyre Forest Labour today rallied around our local market traders, who face a threat to their livelihoods thanks to yet another daft decision by the Tory District Council. Wyre Forest...

Following concerns raised by a job hunter about a local business exploiting young workers, (Delicious Desserts, New Road Kidderminster) and who is expecting new staff to work for free for 7 days, Wyre Forest Labour called for a “Fair Pay Employer’s Charter”.

A local job hunter had alerted Labour after spotting the advert on a national recruitment website, and which was expecting applicants to work for free for 7 days, and often late hours, whilst being ‘trained’. The job hunter who wishes to remain anonymous because it might harm her chances of getting work, said she’d told us because she herself is sick and tired of low pay and working for other exploitive employers in the District.

Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Media Spokesperson said “It is totally wrong, and unlawful, for any employer to use exploitative practices like this. Whatever way you dress it up, it’s taking advantage of vulnerable workers, usually very young, and in this case most certainly teenagers, who are desperate to find work. How would this employer feel, or anyone, if their son or daughter was being treated this way? We know that this isn’t the first time this employer has tried this trick to get free work done. But how many others are at it, and contributing to Wyre Forest’s low pay ‘gig’ economy?”

Following an investigation by Wyre Forest Labour, it was found that Delicious Desserts has form. An ex-employee named Chloe, aged 16, has since been in touch and confirmed the practice. She and her colleagues were also prevented from taking breaks, again, unlawfully.  Wyre Forest Labour will be looking at this matter carefully, and will offer what support it can to any person employed by Delicious Desserts to see if there is a case to take to an Employment Tribunal. Anyone affected should contact us.

Stephen Brown continued by saying “I’d urge the business to stop this practice, treat their staff fairly and with dignity, and comply with the law. Wyre Forest Labour is quite prepared to start calling out bad employers who break the law and campaign on it. We’d also happily champion businesses who engage in good employment practice. Maybe it’s time for a Wyre Forest Charter of ‘fair pay employers’?”

ACAS guidance and the law is very clear on such work related training, it has to be paid. There can however be exceptions with trial shifts where agreed between the parties, but this should last no more than a couple of hours. 

Stephen Brown added “It is nevertheless the view of Wyre Forest Labour that even trial shifts are exploitative. Work is work and it should be paid for. No form of employment exploitation is acceptable. How can we ever hope to build trust between employers and workers and develop our economy, offer hope to young people, or build cohesive communities based on an exploitative economy? The Tories have created this problem with their erosion of worker’s rights, attacks on trade unions, and their austerity agenda. Our local Tory MP, Mark Garnier, with his votes in Parliament and endless faux sympathy about low pay being a problem in Wyre Forest has helped create this environment. It should not surprise anyone that some employers then see exploitation as both normal and acceptable. It’s an awful situation for workers, including vulnerable young people. We have to turn back the dial on this and establish fairer practices”

Chloe’s Story:

Chloe said the person who interviewed her was called 'Abz', a "co-owner" of the business.
When she first went for the job, Abz didn't tell her that she wouldn't be paid during training, and in fact, told her that training would be for one day and if she was kept on she would be paid. That promise turned out to be a lie. After she completed her first day at work (unpaid), she was then told 4 more days training were needed from her. Her first shift was 4:30 to 10:30pm which is a late finish for a 16 year old girl in the centre of town, and she was only able to finish then because her Mum got in touch as she was sat outside waiting to give her a lift home, asking where her daughter was. Chloe said it is mainly all 16-17 year olds working there, and she was actually trained by a girl of the same age who is in her year at school. Meanwhile, the Co-owner ‘manager’ didn't train her and spent his time chatting/not working and would shout at her if she made orders incorrectly. During her 'training' shifts, she made orders and shadowed the other 16 year old girl training her. Chloe wasn’t allowed any breaks, and two staff working with her and who started their shift earlier and later then her, were timed a maximum of 2 minutes for a cigarette break. As the late shifts clashed with her GCSEs, Chloe contacted the Co-owner manager to terminate working there and she was told this was “typical of her” and that he would be “happy for you to quit”.

It is quite clear this was actual work, not even a trial shift, and is a breach of the minimum wage regulations. It is also a breach of the EU Working Time Directive, especially so for Chloe, because as a young worker she should be afforded additional breaks protection.

Employer Response:

Wyre Forest Labour’s Secretary, Ben Davies, contacted the owner, who had this to say: 

"Hi Ben, thanks for asking me about 7 days unpaid training and we would like to mention that an inexperienced person would not make any pudding for a customer during training as we are different to other businesses and it’s not ‘productive’ work. We prefer an experienced employee but also encourage an inexperienced person and give them a chance to start their career without having experience in the dessert field. We know they would not be very expert after 7 days training but at least they can work up to our required standard with minimum supervision and do the practice during training because new staff waste food and the time of senior staff. Making desserts is an art and we don't let a trainee staff serve our valuable customers .........We used to start paying from the first day but this policy was misused as some of the inexperienced persons left us after few days for slightly better wages soon after they finished training with us. Some of our trainee staff started their wages after 4 days as they learnt quickly.”

Ben Davies said "This is a clear case of a local business exploiting young workers for their labour, promising pay, and then requiring additional shifts. This is despite workers generating money for the business by making orders for customers and in total contradiction to what the owner claims and said to me. Chloe’s experience is not unique and you wonder just what the turnover of staff actually is in this business. The public, who now know about this, may well vote with their feet. It’s clearly what the workers are doing because they’re fed up with being taken advantage of. It’s actually also quite unacceptable that the owner uses the excuse that trainee’s waste food, and the time of senior staff whilst learning the job. It’s a job he wants doing and is making money out of. Worse still, that he moans about staff leaving for better pay elsewhere, or that they will get paid after working for 4 days for free like it’s somehow acceptable. How long will it be before the owner realises it’s all very counter productive and isn’t doing him or his business any good?”

Stephen Brown finished by saying “We know the economic climate for business is tough, especially for small and start-up ventures. However, exploiting workers, particularly young workers, and not paying them in this way is not, and never will be, the answer. Labour would seek to reverse the regressive Tory laws on worker’s rights and trade unions, and offer full protection from day one, as well as a £10per hour minimum wage. We are also concerned that post Brexit, EU laws that protect our workers, like the Working Time Directive, will be scrapped by the Tories. They’ve already threatened it. We’d reverse any such Tory changes to ensure worker’s keep their rights. Labour would also help support business with a regional development bank to ensure they get the finance they need to develop their business. There has to be mutual respect and cooperation between workers, employers, and the communities they serve. Otherwise, it’s a race to the bottom that helps no one. Labour will create an economy that works for the many, not the few.”

Stephen Brown

Wyre Forest Labour Party

Wyre Forest Labour Calls For A “Fair Pay Employer’s Charter”

Following concerns raised by a job hunter about a local business exploiting young workers, (Delicious Desserts, New Road Kidderminster) and who is expecting new staff to work for free for...

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