Cornwall Council face a funding shorfall for free school meals
The Government announced from September 2014 that all KS1 pupils (4-7 year olds) will receive a free school meal. It is an idea which I support, though it should also include KS2, if we really want to make a difference. Since this announcement, Cornwall Council has been reviewing the school meal and kitchen facility provision in Cornwall. The aim of this review was to understanding of what kitchen improvements need to be done before September.
This survey identified the costs of carrying out adaptations to existing school kitchens, building new kitchens – where required – and the purchasing and installation of new equipment will cost £1.275m. This costing has been reviewed and reviewed to make sure it is best value. However, and this is the kicker, the Government in its announcement of £150m for new kitchen facilities only allocated £847,260. A shortfall of £428,156.
The Council has made representations to the Government asking for a rethink on the funding, but has been told, the Council will need to find the shortfall from its own budget. This is not helpful, as the Council’s budget is already under extreme pressures and could do without having to find a further £428,156.
However, to make sure the Council meets its obligation for September, I have in conjunction with the Director and Head of Service has agreed this shortfall will come out of the school maintenance budget and then make a case to the School’s Forum (independent of the Council and who administers the Dedicated Schools Grant) to use some of the under-spend in the DSG. That way, the school maintenance budget will hopefully (the SF who can say yes or no) be replenished and this money will be able to try to address the £59m maintenance backlog.
It is extremely disappointing this good idea of free school meals has been undermined by not enough funding being awarded. You cannot help but think the provision of school kitchens was an afterthought to the announcement.