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10 November 2008

SNP Unfunded free school meals proposals will cost council " thousands of pounds a week extra"

Marlyn Glen has written to Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop saying that the Scottish Government’s plans to make councils provide free school meals for primary 1 to 3 pupils in Dundee as from August 2010 could cost " thousands of pounds extra a week that the Scottish Government have not ensured that the council has been given to provide the new service."

Ms. Glen said that it was " up to the Scottish Government to pay for its own election campaign largesse, and not force the cost on to local councils, who are already in difficult financial straits."

Ms. Glen has established through Parliamentary Questions that the projected number of primary 1- 3 pupils in Dundee in August 2010 is forecast as 4,550.

Currently just over a quarter ( 26.6 per cent) of primary children in Dundee are entitled to free school meals.

Amongst those who pay, the free school meals pilot scheme recorded participation rates amongst these children increasing to almost 70 per cent.

This could mean that over 2,000 children in Dundee in P1-P3 who previously would have been eligible to pay for meals could take free school meals as from August 2010.

Meals at Dundee primary schools are currently charged at £1.85 per meal.

Ms. Glen referred to the results from the free school meals pilot scheme in 5 local authorities earlier in this school session.

This indicated that the cost of providing free school meals for P1 to P3 pupils in Glasgow was £2.75p. per additional meal served, and given the urban similarities between Dundee and Glasgow, she said that the additional cost in Dundee would most likely be similar.

Ms. Glen said that dealing with this an increase in the number of those who had previously purchased meals was just one aspect of the cost of introducing of free school meals.

She added,

"The introduction of free school meals is about boosting children’s fitness, and not about boosting a political party’s fortunes.

" Councils should not be compelled to provide a service that the SNP Government has denied them the financial means to provide."


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