October 25 2014 Latest news:
Harry Kemble, Reporter
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Children, aged between five and seven, across the borough will receive free school lunches from the beginning of the new academic year this week.
Government ministers claim the move will save families £400 per year as well having health benefits for children.
However, Wes Streeting, the deputy leader of Redbridge Council, tweeted this morning the local authority had not received enough funding to pay for school improvements.
He later confirmed the council would have to make up the shortfall of £323,755,000 from their own budget.
He said: “It is frustrating because although it is great to see people benefitting from free school meals, once again the local government have been short changed.
“This is part of a continuing pattern of behaviour from this government where they have given greater responsibility to local government but without the funding. It is frustrating to see ministers claiming the good work.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg first announced the major new initiative to fund free school meals in 2013.
Cllr Streeting, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, admitted improvements had to be made to cooking facilities at certain schools across the borough to enable them to provide meals for pupils.
He added: “Thanks to the hard work of the local authority in doing this, every pupil will now be able to receive a free school meal.”
A Local Government Association survey found of the 75 councils across the country, 47 per cent did not receive enough funding from the Department of Education (DfE) to pay for both the improvement work needed and the meals themselves.
The results of this survey were released just weeks before the initiative started on Tuesday.
Are you a parent whose child is eligible for free school meals? We want to hear your thoughts on the initiative. Please call the newsdesk on 0208 477 3825.