WIRRAL Council officers are dithering while poor children go hungry - Birkenhead MP Frank Field has accused.

Mr Field, who last year co-chaired a cross-party inquiry on hunger, has called for swift action from the local authority and demanded officers should “get off their backsides and act.”

At the same time, Mr Field insists measures should be taken to give local schools a vital cash injection.

Following his inquiry on hunger, Mr Field wrote to the council asking whether they might use their housing benefit and council tax records automatically to register poor children from eligible families for free school meals.

The policy, he said, would ensure no child lost out on their entitlement to a free meal every day.

Schools, in turn, would receive "Pupil Premium" funding, linked to a higher number of pupils being signed up for free meals.

Mr Field said: “While council officers dither poor children go hungry and their schools lose out on vital cash to support their education.

“The council has been considering the proposal with its legal representatives for months and months but, as of yet, no recommendations have been made by the officers.

“This should stop immediately and the legal officers need to get off their backsides and act.”

He has written to council chief executive Eric Robinson calling for the issue to be addressed “as a matter of urgency.”

Joe Blott, council strategic director for transformation and resources, said: “We absolutely share Mr Field’s desire to see as many Wirral families as possible benefit from free school meals if they are entitled to it and for their schools to receive the pupil premium.

"We have campaigned in a number of ways to raise awareness of the entitlement among parents and to encourage them to apply.

“We have looked into the examples of how some other local authorities have approached this issue and have also sought detailed legal advice as to whether it would be appropriate for Wirral to do the same.

"This advice, which has looked at the relevant sections of current legislation, has now been received. 

"A report will be presented to politicians as soon as possible, making recommendations about how to proceed.”