OVER one hundred of plates with protest messages have been deposited outside Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie's office, in protest against her abstention from the vote to extend free school meals over holidays.

Ms Baillie abstained from voting in Labour's motion calling for the extension of free meals during the school holidays in England until Easter 2021.

Residents wrote messages on empty plates and left them outside Ms Baillie's office in King Street, Stroud today at 3pm.

One campaigner said: "The people of Stroud want to know why Siobhan abstained when she said she fully supported footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign.

"She repeatedly spoke about being a free school meal kid in her campaign speeches.

"Her abstinence in this vote makes her appear to be disingenuous.

"Locals are angry and saddened by her lack of motivation to help children hit hardest by the current economic climate.

"Where are you Siobhan? Will you even see the plates?"

One mum left a plate which reads: "Dear Siobhan, If you don't care about Britain's children starving, we can't be friends. Yours faithfully, a Stroud mum."

Pictured looking at the plates outside the Stroud MP's office is Ciaran Whittall and his children.

His son said: "It’s a good idea for people to end hunger, especially for children."

Commenting on her abstention from last week's vote, Siobhan Baillie said: "“I did not vote against Labour’s Free School Meals motion last week. I chose to abstain because I did not fully agree with either the government’s or Labour’s position.

"I believe there is merit in meals being available to children during the holidays, especially at this difficult time, and I support Marcus Rashford in his attempts to end food poverty.

"However, Labour’s motion attempted to assert that school meal vouchers were the only mechanism to help vulnerable children receive food during the Covid pandemic this half term or they starve.

"This is completely untrue. The welfare system and job centres are helping right now and councils have been given money to assist vulnerable families too.

"A short-term approach to holiday meals will not create the change we need for children. Community groups and charities should be supported to help families so they can assist with any other issues too and additional meals could be linked to extra-curricular activities so children can benefit from meaningful learning experiences in the holidays.

"I regularly meet with the council and local political party leaders. Despite now the opposition parties now claiming concerns, at no stage have they asked me to speak to the government about half term holiday meal support, nor about the Christmas holidays. Further, I have not been told that the money the government has provided Stroud council is not enough to support vulnerable local families. If they had I would have acted immediately.

"It is sad this emotive issue has been politicised and so much misleading information has been put out. I received free school meals as a child so any claim that I voted against providing free school meals, that I do not care about children, that I want children to starve and that I have failed to support Marcus Rashford’s brilliant campaigning could not be further from the truth because I was there. I was that child.

"The way forward now is for the government to come up with a strategy that will not just be a short-term help but one that will instigate really long-term and meaningful change for children on free school meals.

"I have joined the All Party Parliamentary Group for the National Food Strategy and we will look at many of the issues I have mentioned above. I have also made my feelings known to the government on this topic and I await its response.

"In the meantime, if anyone is struggling this half term please do not hesitate to contact my office or the council.”