YEP Says, May 31: Nick Clegg cooks up storm over free school meal costs

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Lib Dems fail to carry out due diligence on crowd-pleasing policy.

AT the end of the most challenging week of Nick Clegg’s political career, today’s criticisms about the introduction of free school meals at Leeds infant schools – and the implications for town hall budgets – will not endear the Deputy Prime Minister to voters.

Though his intentions are sincere – the Liberal Democrats have been consistent with their desire for more education funding to be allocated to pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds – this is a crowd-pleasing policy announced at last autumn’s party conference to appease fractious activists.

The problem is that Mr Clegg’s party undertook insufficient due diligence on the cost of this initiative, a failing that has been the subject of several embarrassing disclosures that made reference to calculations being carried out on the back of a proverbial cigarette package.

This is absolutely no consolation to Leeds City Council where Judith Blake, the lead councillor for children’s services, said: “Free school meals for all children under seven are 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.”

The solution? School budgets coming under even greater strain in a city where education standards are already below the national average.

Is this what Mr Clegg intended?

Long wait for answers over Corfu tragedy

AS part of the Government’s austerity cuts, applications for legal aid have rightly come under greater scrutiny.

Yet while this is understandable given the need to save public money, the decision not to grant aid to the family of Wakefield youngsters Christi and Bobby Shepherd, who died from carbon monoxide poisoning on holiday, was indefensible.

Thankfully common sense has now prevailed, meaning they will have legal representation at next year’s inquest into the deaths in Corfu.

After waiting eight years for answers, let’s hope that Christi and Bobby’s loved ones finally get them.

LETTER: Computers get in the way