Leeds schools miss out on extra Government cash for for free hot meals

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EVERY SCHOOL in Leeds which applied for extra cash to ensure they could deliver free school meals to infants was denied Government funding.

A parliamentary answer by Schools Minister David Laws shows there were nine bids from schools in the city for a share of an extra £20m of funding which the Department for Education had made available.

However no schools in Leeds were among the successful applications, meaning bids totalling £1m were turned down.

Across Yorkshire only five of the 56 schools which bid actually received any additional cash.

A plan to provide free school meals for children up to the age of seven were announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at the Liberal Democrat party conference in 2013 and came into affect at the start of the current academic year.

However there has been ongoing controversy over how the policy was costed, and the impact it is having on schools’ and councils’ budgets. Before the start of the new school year, the Local Government Association suggested that the £150m provided by the DfE would leave a shortfall of more than £25m nationally. In October last year Schools Minister David Laws announced another £20m was being provided to allow more capital work on school kitchens to be carried out.

Last week it emerged that all four schools from Mr Clegg’s home city of Sheffield which applied for this extra funding missed out - with the city council having to find £400,000 from its own budget. A spokesman for the Lib Dem leader said that parents and taxpayers would be amazed that the city’s Labour Council did not make better use of the initial £1.2m funding schools were given.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said the main purpose of the extra funding had been to help schools who were unable to provide hot food.

He said all of the applications which could demonstrate they could not deliver hot food had received additional money.

A spokesman for the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg added: “Schools were given £150million to improve kitchen and dining facilities. Additional money was made available to those who weren’t able to provide hot meals. All of the schools in Yorkshire that applied for extra funding because they were unable to provide hot meals received this boost.

“Thanks to this policy, 1.3 million more infants are now enjoying a proper meal at lunchtime.”

Sarah Champion MP

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