£10m bill for free meals in Yorkshire schools

School meals being prepared
School meals being prepared
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THE building work needed to ensure free school meals can be provided for all infants in Yorkshire will cost more than £10m, with town hall bosses across the county warning the Government has not provided enough money.

Five education authorities in Yorkshire predict that councils and schools will need to help fund the cost of building and refurbishing kitchens and dining halls from their own budgets.

The Government announced earlier this year that £150m would be provided to upgrade kitchens across the country for the launch of its new policy in September.

However, half of the authorities which responded to a survey by The Yorkshire Post warned that the funds allocated would not cover the cost of work needed.

The Department for Education (DfE) claims councils could also use a larger capital fund they have received for “general maintenance”. However, education bosses in Yorkshire warned that this would mean diverting cash away from other priorities.

Council bosses say the lack of funds means pupils might have to be served meals outside of the dining room, while some authorities are considering building new “kitchen hubs” which would provide meals to more than one school.

Barnsley, Bradford, Calderdale, Leeds and North Yorkshire councils told The Yorkshire Post they expect to face a shortfall in funding.

East Riding Council said it was still working out the full cost of the work required in 24 schools in the district. Elsewhere five councils – Doncaster, Kirklees, Sheffield, Rotherham and York – said they expected the money provided by the DfE would cover the cost of the work.

Bradford Council is facing a shortfall of up to £1.2m while Leeds Council also expects to be short of cash despite receiving more than £2m.

Coun Judith Blake, executive member for children’s services said: “Free school meals for all children under seven is a great idea in theory, but because we have been given insufficient funding we have had to ask schools to match-fund to enable us to provide the facilities we need.”

A DfE spokesman said: “The Government is providing a substantial package of funding to support the delivery of universal infants free school meals.”

Infographic: We don’t have time or money to serve up free school meals plan