School meals axe anger

TWO opposing politicians are to join forces to try and persuade Essex County Council to reverse its decision about scrapping a centralised primary school meals service.

By Roddy Ashworth

TWO opposing politicians are to join forces to try and persuade Essex County Council to reverse its decision about scrapping a centralised primary school meals service.

Labour's Tim Young and the Liberal Democrat Terry Sutton, both rival Colchester borough councillors, are to hold a public protest meeting against the change.

They hope the response will persuade Essex County Council to rethink a decision which could force schools to arrange their own meals for pupils.


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Currently, dinners in 340 of Essex's primary schools are provided by catering firm Scolarest, with the administration being managed by the county council.

But after a tendering process of companies showed that the meals would probably have to rise in price by at least 60p each from April, the county council decided not to award a contract.

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Instead it has allocated funding to help small schools which might struggle to afford providing their own meals.

Yesterday Mr Young, a governor at Stanway Primary School in Colchester, said he hoped next month's meeting would raise county hall awareness of the strength of feeling of parents, governors, teachers and heads.

"We are trying to put pressure on the county council. We hope the protest meeting will be able to unanimously support some sort of motion – hopefully from the floor – calling on the LEA to think again.

"At the very least it should defer the decision to stop providing hot meals so schools have enough time to consider the options, consult with parents and make adequate preparations."

Mr Sutton, chairman of governors at Monkwick Infant School and Nursery, said: "If they could see the depth of concern among governors who have less than 12 weeks to set up a school catering service I am sure they would look at the issue again.

"It is putting more and more pressure on teaching staff, and particularly headteachers.

"As governors we are responsible for providing school meals of a particular nutritional value.

"In some of the deprived areas of the town, where the school meal can be the only hot meal a child has all day, providing sandwiches is simply not an option."

However last night a county council spokesman said: "It is with great regret that we have decided we had to follow this course, but the implications on the school meals services would have meant a primary school meal costing more than £2, and Essex primary schools losing £2 million from their own budget.

"There is an extra £1 million being targeted at those schools that otherwise would lose out, such as small schools or those in rural areas."

The protest meeting is to be held at 7.30pm in the Moot Hall at Colchester Town Hall on February 11.

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