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Free school meals programme in disarray due to lack of funding

19 August 2014 by
Free school meals programme in disarray due to lack of funding

A lack of funding is blamed for what looks set to be a shambolic start to the government's free school meals programme, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

A survey by the LGA highlights that there is a lack of funds amounting to £25.8m across nearly one half of local authorities in England to fund the ambitious programme, reports The Guardian.

The scheme to provide all pupils in the first years of primary education in England with free school meals was announced by Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, at the Liberal Democrat annual conference, in September 2013.

The government has committed an extra £150m to fund new kitchens and dining rooms, but David Laws, the schools minister, has admitted that some schools will have to provide only cold food initially until extra kitchens have been completed.

According to the LGA survey, 47% of councils said they had not received enough funds to carry out kitchen improvements.

"Councils and schools have been working really hard to make this happen within this ambitious timescale," said David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA's children and young people board.

"This research makes it clear central government has not provided schools with enough money to do the essential work necessary to give 1.5 million children a free meal at lunchtime. It is councils and schools who are picking up the bill for this work, at a time when budgets are already squeezed and tough decisions are being taken."

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