POLITICAL activists gathered outside the Wordsley office of Tory MP Mike Wood as the row over free schools refused to go away this week.

Labour Party members and supporters of People Before Profits descended on the doorstep of Mr Wood's constituency office in Wordsley High Street yesterday (Wednesday) in protest at the Government's refusal to support a motion to extend free school meals.

The vote in the Commons last week saw 322 Conservative MPs vote down a motion backed by 261 Labour MPs to extend free meals for children living in poverty in the school holidays.

This week posters have started to appear in Stourbridge banning the town's MP Suzanne Webb from shops in protest over her vote and stance on the subject – and yesterday evening campaigners took their protest to the office of Dudley South MP Mike Wood where banners and paper plates were stuck to the windows accusing the MP of voting against feeding vulnerable children.

One protestor said: "It’s ironic that a MP earning £80k+ votes regularly for reductions in welfare benefits and found it easy to deny children free school meals in the holidays."

The 15-strong group of protestors were shown support by passing motorists and bar staff at a nearby pub invited the group for a free drink afterwards, the News was told.

Mr Wood said: "I’d like to thank the protesters for the peaceful way that they staged the photo shoot.

"I know we agree on the need to help people who are struggling to put food on their families’ plates during the pandemic, even if we disagree on the best way to get that money through to people most in need."

The MP has explained to constituents on Facebook that he voted against extending free school meals as he believes "the more comprehensive approach the Government is taking to support families through this pandemic is a better way of making sure that no child goes hungry because of coronavirus" and today he told the News: "I will continue to work with the Government and Dudley Council to make sure people can get the support they need - whether that’s through the £9billion temporary increase in welfare benefits or specific local grants to help people who can’t afford to pay for food or rent."

Meanwhile, a petition launched by England and Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford to help end child food poverty has now topped one million signatures – with 683 people Dudley South having signed and more than 1,000 in Stourbridge.

The petition urges the Government to expand access to free school meals, provide meals and activities during school holidays and expand the NHS Healthy Start scheme which offers free milk, fruit and vegetables to families on certain benefits.

Mr Wood said he has "enormous respect" for Marcus Rashford as a footballer and for highlighting the issue but he added: "If anybody knows people in Dudley South who are really struggling during the outbreak, the best thing to do is contact my office rather than wave placards outside it. I will do what I can to make sure they get the support they need."