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Caterers still waiting for school meals cash

17 February 2006
Caterers still waiting for school meals cash

Government cash to improve school meals is not getting through to plates, according to caterers.

Despite the Government's pledge of £220m, caterers claim that poor prioritisation of resources and a lack of guidance means the money is either being squandered or sat on. Local authorities received a first instalment of money in September.

Steve Thorns, divisional director for Sodexho Education, believes the money is being badly targeted. "In the majority of cases the funding is not leading to improved menus. It seems we won't receive a share of it," he said.

A spokesman for Gloucestershire County Council, where Sodexho runs the county-wide contract, denied Sodexho would not receive a share of the new money. "No decision has been made on the allocation of additional government funding. We have asked Sodexho to put forward a sustainable business plan," he said.

The Local Authority Caterers Association believes some councils have not spent their allocation because the Government has failed to issue nutritional guidelines since the consultation went out last October.

Chairman Kevin McKay said: "It's time the Government pulled its finger out. We need to know what we should be achieving."

Roger Denton, head of Sutton catering services in Surrey, believes the uncertainty will lead to the patchy implementation of healthier menus across the UK.

"There will be no national consistency," he said.

But a spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills disagreed, and said changes needed to be "driven at a local level". He added that clarification on the new nutritional standards would come "in the spring".

By Tom Bill

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