COUNCILLORS have clashed over claims parents of children entitled to free school meals ‘can’t be  bothered’  to pick them and use food vouchers to buy cigarettes.

Cllr Anne Millward made her controversial remarks during a Dudley Council meeting to discuss steps the authority should take during the pandemic.

Supporting giving meals and food vouchers to pupils sent home during outbreaks, she said one school had been left with food parcels after parents failed to collect them.

The Conservative member for Gornal added: “While staff were ringing round telling parents we have your meals here not one of the parents wanted to come in for the meals, not one.

“It just shows that it’s an issue we all care about but these parents were not prepared to come to the school and collect a pre-packed grab bag for their child saying, ‘nay leave it, we’em alright’.”

She added: “And it’s not because of pride, it’s because they can’t bothered to come to the school and fetch them.”

Her remarks to the  Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee prompted Labour’s Elaine Taylor to question if parents felt unsafe going schools during the Covid outbreak.

Saying food parcels had been delivered in the past Cllr Millard added: “When they are living in  the next street? Come on, I don’t think it’s a matter of being unsafe.”

Her claims were echoed by fellow Conservative Cllr Peter Lee who said the council had stopped issuing food vouchers because the system was being abused.

He said: “Parents were using them to buy cigarettes and such like and not for the purpose they were intended for.”

Moving a recommendation to continue providing vouchers and meals, Labour councillor David Tyler rejected the claim saying: “As far as school meals are concerned we need to be absolutely  sure that the vouchers are used  only for the purpose they were intended.

“But I do suspect that a lot of abuse allegations are ill founded and based on hearsay in a lot of cases.”

The committee’s recommendations will now go a full council on November 30 for final approval.