UK & World News

  • 19 August 2014, 7:18

Government 'Bailed Out' Over School Dinners

Cash-strapped schools and councils are having to "bail out the Government because of its own incompetence", the shadow education secretary has claimed.

A survey by the Local Government Association (LGA) found many authorities do not have enough cash to provide Nick Clegg's pledge to give free school meals to all infants.

Government funding worth 150m was handed to councils as part of the scheme announced by the Deputy Prime Minister - this was to cover improvements to kitchens and dining facilities.

But the LGA survey of 75 councils found nearly half (47%) said they had not received enough cash to cover the full cost of the work.

Tristram Hunt said: "Nick Clegg announced the policy without doing the maths first. It's more evidence that voters cannot trust a word the Liberal Democrats say."

Of those that said they did not have enough money, 49% said the council would make up the difference, with 37% saying some of the cash would come from school coffers.

The LGA found that money earmarked for school maintenance and repairs could also be used to make up the difference.

The total shortfall in funding has been estimated at 25.9m.

Councillor David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA's children and young people board, said: "There's no doubt that dishing up a nutritious lunch for every young pupil will improve the experience of school and help them concentrate in lessons.

"Councils and schools have been working really hard to make this happen within this ambitious timescale.

"But it cannot be right that for some councils, money set aside for maintenance has instead had to be spent plugging the shortfall in money which government should have provided for meals."