Price of School Meals Frozen

The price of school meals in Derbyshire has been frozen by the county council, months after the authority slashed staff hours.

Last year, Derbyshire County Council hiked the price of school meals for the first time in four years.

It followed this up with a cut to the hours of some catering staff of up to eight per cent.

Around 1,000 school catering supervisors were involved in the review.

The county council employs a total of 1,500 catering staff making 55,000 meals a day at 369 schools.

Unions opposed the cuts, which saw staff currently working 37 hours a week earning around £97 less each month; and those working 30 hours earning almost £80 less.

The council agreed not to cut the hours of all the staff.

The price of school meals has now been increased by 10p for primary and nursery schools (to £2.10) and 5p (to £2.40) in secondary and special schools.

These prices will be frozen for the current year, however the council warned it may have to increase charges again to remain competitive.

The council says it recognises the impact that any school meal price hike has on families.

It says that the introduction of free school meals for children in reception, Year 1 and Year 2 in 2014 saw private companies flood the market to provide the services – and compete with the council.

On Monday 8th July, Cllr Alex Dale, the cabinet member for young people, reiterated that the changes last year were made to keep the service viable, and avoid it making a loss.

He said that in the financial year 2018 to 2019, the catering service was set for a £79,000 loss.

Cllr Dale said: “If we hadn’t have increased the price last year, the deficit would have been very significant this year.
“It is an increasingly competitive market.
“It was quite a significant increase last year, we know that will have been a lot for some families and we need to work out how we can avoid this situation happening again.”
A report on this year’s freeze says: “Although the service faces significant budget pressures, it has been possible to mitigate these through the development of efficiencies and an income generation programme.
“However, the service continues to face further challenges, some of which have been mitigated through the continuation of improved performance which has ensured the sustainability of the service.
“It is important that the service remains commercially competitive, retaining market share and maximising business opportunities.
“In the main, this is achieved by operating in a fair and transparent manner, ensuring that the selling price continues to be very low compared to near and statistical neighbours after the increases.”

Eddie Bisknell (LDRS)

Eddie writes for Nailed through the Local Democracy Reporting Service, in partnership with the BBC. The Local Democracy Reporting Service is a partnership of media outlets sharing reporters to cover council meetings.

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