In the early 70s, when Margaret Thatcher was at Education, she cut the provision of free school milk for 7-11 year olds. As a result (and because it handily rhymed), the chant “Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk Snatcher!” became popular. Not popular enough for her to lose the General Election eight years later, but there we are.
In 1980s, the milk for kids over 5 was cut as well, only much less of a fuss was made about it at the time (although it did affect me, as I was 6 at the time, so I remember that the chant was reprised).
During the last Labour government, partly as a result of things like SureStart, there have been more kids under 5 at school and in playschemes, and they are still entitled to free milk. This is funded from Health budgets.
But we are now in the era of cuts, and ideological ones at that. So, even though the Health budget is supposedly ringfenced, the Health Minister Anne Milton had been proposing it.
Make no mistake, this was not just being ‘mooted’, some vague possibility that needed to be looked into. Milton was already at the point of opening discussions with the Scottish Public Health Minister about how it would be done.
But such is the zeal with which the government are taking a knife to budgets, and such is the license that they seem to have, that it appears that Dave didn’t know. It was quite funny to see David Willetts squirming this morning, struggling to defend a proposal and show how all options were under consideration before the news broke in front of him that Cameron had put the mockers on the whole idea.
So, we can at least be glad that these Tories are not quite going to be as ruthless as some of them would like. I’m sure we’ll all be remembering this when other services go – at least Dave didn’t let them cut the kiddies’ free milk.