The introduction of free school meals in primary schools have been underfunded by the government, it is claimed.

All pupils aged from four to seven will be eligible under the scheme, with 1.55million children included across the country.

But Redbridge councils Labour leadership says it has had to plug a funding gap of £350,000 to ensure the scheme worked.

Cabinet member for health & wellbeing, Wes Streeting, claims not enough money was provided to bring cooking facilities up to capacity.

He said: “While we welcome the implementation of the policy, there has been a consistent shortfall from central government for the funding of this project.”

“We have had to divert funds that could be used in other areas to compensate for this.”

Local Government Association research found nearly half of councils did not receive enough funding in time for the start of the school year.

Conservative MP for Ilford North Lee Scott said: “The scheme will help some of those who need the most help and this can only be welcomed and has been by those who have contacted me.

“I know the council will also share their responsibility in this as well”.