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Royal Borough unable to calculate cost of free school meals

Royal Borough unable to calculate cost of free school meals

Simon Meechan

Free school meals have been rolled out to children aged between four and seven in the Royal Borough - but the council has said it is unable to calculate the cost of serving them.

Government policy now means that pupils in reception, year one and year two now all qualify for a free hot lunch every day.

Information obtained by the Labour Party through the Freedom of Information Act shows the cost of upgrading kitchens in the Royal Borough schools which benefit from the changes is £652,325.

Central government awarded a grant of £254,780 to the borough to fund the meals, with a further £101,735 given to voluntarily ran schools in the borough.

In total 43 schools qualify to serve free school meals.

The Royal Borough’s reply to the Freedom of Information Request says it is unable to calculate what the costs of serving the free school meals will be, and if there is any shortfall in funding.

Neighbouring Wokingham Borough Council announced it is facing a funding shortfall of £270,000.

Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Maidenhead Charles Smith said he is ‘concerned’ that the council was unable to provide data for delivery costs or a funding shortfall.

He added that the borough should make that information public ‘as a matter of transparency and accountability’.

Liberal Democrat candidate for Maidenhead, Tony Hill, praised free school meals as ‘a reversal of over thirty years of education policy'.

He added: “Children will now be able to learn better throughout the school day, and each family can save yearly over £400 per child.”

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