The leader of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council has hit out at Prime Minister Boris Johnson over not providing free meals to impoverished children over holiday periods in east Lancashire until next year.

Last week, Mr Johnson's Government and backbench Conversation MPs voted against providing free school meals for children in need during holiday periods until Easter 2021.

It led to widespread condemnation across Lancashire and the country, with Manchester United and England striker Marcus Rashford, who has been pressurising the Government to provide the meals to in need kids, slamming the decision taken by Tory MPs.

A petition created by the England striker calling for meal vouchers to continue had gained more than 900,000 signatures by Monday evening (October 26).

The Prime Minister and Health Secretary Matt Hancock both suggested that councils across England could step in to fill the holiday hunger gap using £63million in central grants allocated in the summer.

But the harsh reality of the Covid-19 pandemic has seen most of that funding already spent on supporting hardship areas.

In Blackburn with Darwen, a total of £239,387 was received from central government in June and was used to support the council's Food Hub, providing provisions to those shielding, in need and vulnerable.

Shoppers wear face masks in Blackburn town centre

Due to the severity of the Covid situation in Blackburn with Darwen, which has been one of the worst hit areas in England and has been in a state of local lockdown since late July, the money has already been spent.

And Councillor Mohammed Khan, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said the money had been spent within 12 weeks of receiving it, as per the Government's own guidelines.

Councillor Khan said: "The Government stipulated that this should be spent within 12 weeks and we did this to help people throughout the summer, and there has been no further funding made available."

The Local Government Association, the national membership body for local authorities, said demand had now “outstripped this funding” and that any council offering meals during half-term are doing so out of their own budgets.

It comes as a row has broken out in Lancashire over the free school meals vote, with the Labour leader of South Ribble Borough Council writing to the area's Conservative MP calling her decision to vote against the motion in Parliament as "incomprehensible".

Coun Khan said it is a "shame that the Government did not continue its scheme from the summer, when meals were provided to the most vulnerable during the school holidays".

But he added it is "amazing to see the whole community come together to help when it is needed most".

"This is what we do best, and shows we are a united borough which pulls together in times of need. I hope we can continue to work with the Government to look at more funding for the children and families who need it most," Coun Khan said.

"We can not allow our children to go hungry, and rest assured we will do whatever we can to make sure this doesn’t happen."