Hull heads block £1 school lunches plan
HEAD teachers have blocked moves to cut lunchtime meal prices in Hull's primary schools.
Hull City Council's ruling Labour group had included a pledge to reduce meal prices in its budget proposals earlier this year.
Labour wanted to cut the cost of a main meal from £1.30 to £1 by allocating £1 million towards a subsidy package.
In a press release issued at the time, the group said: "These measures will help people during tough times."
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But, eight months on, councillors have reluctantly accepted the price cut is not going to happen after the proposal was blocked by head teachers.
They are believed to have rejected the idea because it would potentially jeopardise funding from the Government's new Pupil Premium regime.
Part of the qualifying criteria for the funding is based on the number of pupils from low-income families entitled to free school meals.
Councillor Phil Webster cabinet member for finance, said: "It was our wish to reduce the price of school meals in primary schools but it would have only happened if we had managed to get the agreement of head teachers.
"We can't force them to take part and, unfortunately, it's not going to happen.
"We did manage to reverse the budget proposals put forward last year to increase the price of a meal to £1.60 and that shouldn't be forgotten.
"The money is still there and has been put back into the pot to spend on other things."
Education portfolio holder Councillor Helene O'Mullane said head teachers were concerned about the impact of any price cut on their Pupil Premium funding.
She said: "As a council, we can only work with head teachers and schools."
But former council leader Councillor Colin Inglis, who initiated a three-year pilot scheme that provided free school meals for all primary pupils in Hull, said the decision was a smack in the face for democracy.
He said: "As a group, we campaigned on this issue at the elections and were duly elected by the people of Hull on that basis.
"Now, we have a group of unelected, unaccountable head teachers deciding they don't want to go along with the wishes of the electorate."
A new report on the council's current financial position suggests the money allocated to subsidise a reduction in school meal prices could now be used to offset overspending by the authority's children and young people service (CYPS).
In the report, the council's head of finance Brendan Arnold says: "The CYPS position assumes that £1 million allocated by members in relation to school meals may, in practice, be used for general purposes.
"This has not been agreed formally and if it is not then the CYPS financial forecast will worsen accordingly."
Current forecasts suggest the department, which covers education and children's social care, could overspend by at least £3.1 million this year.