EMPTY plates were sent to the office of west Dorset MP Chris Loder in protest against his vote to not extend free school meals for eligible children throughout holidays.

The MP has defended his vote on the issue, claiming councils - not schools - was best placed to support families most in need, and had received money from the Government to do so.

He is just one of a number of MPs to be demonstrated against in this manner, after voting against the motion. Similar protests have been carried out across the country after 322 Conservative MPs voted against a motion calling for the free school meal voucher scheme to be extended over holidays until Easter 2021.

The local empty plate protest was organised by Dorset-based group, 'Low Pay - No Way'.

Group spokeswoman Jenny Lennon-Wood said: “We are concerned that with Dorset having many low paid jobs, that there will be lots of families struggling in the current climate and children not being fed in school holidays is a major problem.

“We are trying to encourage local MPs to retract their original votes.

“We’ve had a great response for people who want to get involved. I don’t know whether this is going to affect a change of heart from the two MPs but they need to be considering their position.

“It’s so penny pinching when you think of the huge amounts of money being spent elsewhere – a much less significant amount of money to feed children. I don’t think there’s an argument for it."

Low Pay – No way was started in February 2020 with an aim to raise Dorset's minimum wage to what they would consider a 'real' liveable wage, which they summarise to be £9.30.

Mr Loder said: "Dorset Council is taking the lead on reaching out to families in most need at this very moment. Our Council is best placed to offer this support and the Government is ensuring they have the money to do so. This is not a question of whether to provide support for children in need – the question is how to do so most effectively.

"So, in response to those who say I want children in West Dorset to starve or I don’t believe in helping them – nothing could be further from the truth. If the welfare system needs to be changed or improved, I shall be very pleased to push for these reforms. I shall do so based on the experience of those constituents who tell me that the system is not working for them and their families; rather than on the view of others who have simply followed politically-motivated headlines."