Sinn Féin Councillor Leeanne McEvoy brings motion to council on back-to-school costs hitting many families
Sinn Féin Councillor Leeanne McEvoy brought a motion forward to Council in a bid to get the DUP back into the Executive to support families and begin to deal with soaring back-to-school costs facing many families.
She was speaking following the publication of the latest Irish League of Credit Unions Annual School Costs Survey.
Cllr McEvoy said: “Workers and families are already struggling with the cost-of-living, with fuel costs, electricity bills, and mortgage interest rates, and now families are once again faced with soaring back-to-school costs.
”This latest survey found that parents can expect to spend £837 per primary school child, a rise of £81 on last year; and £989 per secondary child, an increase of £163 on last year.
”The cost of school uniforms is the primary expense for families.
“As well as that, more than half of parents are saying that having children home over the holidays is putting them under added financial pressure, particularly in terms of grocery and utility bill costs.
“This emphasises the impact the removal of the holiday hunger payment has on disadvantaged households.
”Sinn Féin wants to legislate to make uniforms more affordable for all families and reinstate vital holiday hunger payments to the tens of thousands of families who rely on them.
”Children, families and our schools need the Assembly and Executive formed now so that parties can work together to protect our public services and progress legislation to help cut back school costs for families.
“I once again urge the DUP to end its blockade on the Executive and stop holding up this important work.”
DUP Councillor Callum Bowsie called for an amendment to the proposal asking for “calls for the urgent restoration of the Assembly and Executive” to be removed seconded by Mournes Councillor Glynn Hanna but the request failed to get support and was not carried.
SDLP Councillor Pete Byrne said: “We need to have an Executive and and an Assembly and we are at the stage now the issues affect all families out there.
“It is about getting in line with Scotland and Wales who grant each pupil £100 and £200 [respectively] while we only give out £35 in the North.
“We must take all reasonable steps to keep costs down. We need to sit round the table now and make decisions.”
Alliance Councillor Andrew McMurray said: “This amendment is never going to fly. The Assembly needs to be up and running and this is just holing things up. I support Cllr McEvoy’s motion.
UUP Councillor David Taylor added: “When children are going to school this coming term it seems all the costs are just coming at once. We do need to find a way to alleviate pressures on parents.
“We need to ensure there is effective competition to ensure prices are set properly and I would ask ask too is the Department o fEducation doing all it can too?”
DUP Councillor Glynn Hanna said: “This is a good motion” but added: “It is disgusting to see this DUP bashing. Sinn Féin kept out of the Assembly for three years.”
Sinn Fein Councillor Oonagh Hanlon said: “We are in a cost-of-living crisis at the moment along with mental health issues, many people are now very vulnerable.
“We need a functioning government to bring forward legislation.
“Council should not be debating this issue. This is the only way to show we are in sympathy with workers and families.”
The motion was carried by a majority.
Cllr Leeanne McEvoy’s Motion:
“That this council notes the findings of the 2023 Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) survey on Back to School costs which show 41% of parents in this jurisdiction go into debt due to back to school costs, with the largest expense for both primary and secondary school parents being uniforms; is deeply concerned that the high cost of some school uniforms is a source of financial stress for many families impacting their health and well-being; acknowledges that the positive attributes of school uniforms such as promoting equality amongst pupils, is at risk of being undermined by affordable costs; and calls for the urgent restoration of the Assembly and Executive so that legislation can be brought forward that will require schools to have competitive tendering processes, removes requirements for expensive branded items and permits the use of cheaper High Street alternatives”.