Around 6,000 children in Widnes and Runcorn will still receive free school meals over half term after the local council stepped in to fund the scheme.

Halton Council said any child who was entitled to free school meals would continue receiving them during the half term holiday if requested.

A council spokesperson said the local authority would also look at ways of funding the scheme over the Christmas holidays.

The spokesperson said: “Because of the short notice and practical distribution difficulties we are unable to offer a voucher scheme by next week to 6,000 school children, but we are looking at different options for the Christmas holiday period.

“However, the Council is always here to support families and vulnerable people who need our support, food or otherwise, during half-term and at any other time of the year.  ‘If families need our help getting a free school meal, or other help they should call us on 0151 907 8363.”

The move follows the government’s rejection of a campaign by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford to ensure deprived children continue to be fed outside term time.

Conservative MPs voted against a Labour motion on Wednesday night that would have seen free school meals provided to eligible children during the holidays until Easter 2021.

The government’s decision has provoked a national outcry, with numerous businesses offering free food to deprived children and several councils stepping in to fund free school meals during the holidays.