Leeds school meals cash fiasco: Council faces huge bill

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LEEDS schools face a massive bill to ensure free meals can be provided to infants across the city because the Government has not provided enough cash.

Council chiefs say the £2.1m provided to refurbish and expand kitchens and dining halls will not cover the cost. They warn some pupils will have to be served meals outside of the classroom while other schools will have to operate three separate sittings.

It follows a major row in Westminster over the way in which the policy was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

A fund of £150m has been made available to expand schools kitchens. However Dominic Cummings, a former advisor to Education Secretary Michael Gove, claimed the figures were “junk”. Now Leeds City Council is warning that the cash it has been given will not cover the costs.

Coun Judith Blake, executive member 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 council say 190 schools need some expansion or refurbishing.

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

The DfE said Leeds Council could use a £9m fund it received for general maintenance to help meet the cost of delivering the meals.

However Coun Blake said this would mean diverting funds away from other vital maintenance work.

Andy Goulty, chief executive of Rodillian Multi-Academy Trust.

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