20th Oct, 2017

Schools meals face the axe in cuts

Coventry Editorial 23rd Dec, 2014 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

Coventry’s school meals service faces the axe in council cuts.

More schools would instead consider their own in-house catering, or buying in meals from private companies.

Leading councillors at a cabinet meeting on January 6 will consider a recommendation from council officers to scrap the council’s school catering service, with job losses threatened.

They say it is a response to schools’ concerns about the service, with many dropping out.

Schools would also have the choice of contracting meals from Solihull council, they say.

Councillor David Kershaw, Coventry City Council’s cabinet member for education, said: “We consulted schools earlier this year, with the majority telling us they were disappointed with the service and wanted more control over their own menus.

“They also told us that they did not want to commit long-term to using the service and many have already begun seeking their own options which means fewer schools are using the service.

“As we lose schools, we lose the potential income which helps fund the service which means we are now faced with a service which is unsustainable.

“There are a number of options available to schools which I believe will actually improve the service and give schools more control over the food they provide for pupils.

“The council is facing some extremely tough and painful decisions, which are made especially difficult when staff, teachers, governors, pupils and parents all work so hard to continually improve levels of achievement and quality in Coventry schools.”

The number of schools using the service has fallen from 77 to 52 mainly primary schools in recent months alone, resulting in a £571,000 budget shortfall this year.

Most secondary schools are now academies with more freedoms, including over where they buy services from.

Among schools’ concerns in the consultation was the freshness of the food, council officers say.

They claim the service has never delivered the profit envisaged and that, in a climate of funding cuts, services have to be self-financing.

The positive impact of a government-backed free school meals initiative for qualifying pupils has only partly offset the financial blow of losing more schools, officers add.

The vast majority of 184 staff are based in schools, with the rest employed directly by the council.

The council says some staff could be reployed to other schools, private firms or Solihull council.

If approved, the service would end in July.

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