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.

4 comments

  • You must realise that had the CC complied with EUNOMIA ‘S advice on expenditure for waste treatment, CC would have adequate money to serve the residents of Cornwall.

    You are robbing the wrong pot.

    Hilda Dent

  • Ashley Wood

    Dear Cllr Wallis. I’m chairman of Mining Villages Community Network (and Lanner parish council). With Cornwall Food and Drink and also Cornwall Food and Farming Group we are building up a campaign to see more Cornish food in Cornish schools particularly with the coming to an end of the Cornwall Council contract with Chartwells in 2015. During our discussions with a number of schools county wide the issue of free meals for KS1 and the late delivery of kitchen provision/improvements has come to the fore. We were aware of a looming budgetary shortfall for Cornwall arising from this Government initiative but were under the (false it seems) impression that this was because of likely increase in take up of meals since Cornwall provide a subsidy to Chartwell of £0.62 per meal. With my colleague Kevin Gray-Roberts I met George Eustice to discuss our findings to date and plans for the future on Thursday just gone. I raised the issue of many schools not having required upgrading done in time to which he gave no comment. I also asked why the government was providing £2.30 per free meal when it was costing Cornwall £2.82: he did not know. It seems inequitable that the government should introduce a policy, take the credit but impose cost on the local education authority whose budget it is, at the same time, cutting! I am therefore sending him a follow up email on these points.
    In addition, our discussions with potential alternative suppliers have thrown up potential alternative solutions – not least that offered by the Cornwall Food Production Unit. We would be happy to meet you to discuss our project in detail if it would be helpful to you.
    Regards. Ashley Wood

  • Andrew Wallis

    Dear Ashley,

    Thank you for the comment. I would be more than willing to meet you. Could you drop me an email with your contact details please

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