Council to collect £20k school meal debt despite 'writing off' charges

Perth and Kinross Council agreed to write off debt from school pupils at a meeting last week, but warned 'cost effective recovery' may yet be carried out.

Council agrees to ‘write off’ school pupils’ meal debt but warns some charges ‘will be collected’ Google Maps
Perth and Kinross Council agreed to write off some of the debt.

Perth and Kinross Council is owed £20,000 for unpaid school meals.

Councillors agreed to write off the debt at a meeting last week.

The council has amassed debts in respect of sales ledger; council tax; non-domestic rates; irrecoverable rents; housing benefit overpayments and unpaid parking fees.

As well as unpaid school meals, the council’s outstanding debt included £278,900 deemed “uncollectable” in council tax, £269,612 in non-domestic rates, £363,100 for housing rent and £103,873 in car park trading account income. Many of the debts have been amassed over several years.

Perth and Kinross Council’s (PKC) finance and resources committee was asked to approve the debts be written off when it met on Wednesday, June 15.

While the debts will be written off for accounting purposes the officers’ report assured the committee “the files are not closed, and every effort will be made to collect the outstanding debt where new information becomes available and where recovery is cost-effective”.

The figure relating to school meals debt came in response to questions from Conservative councillor Caroline Shiers. Earlier this month the Aberlour report revealed over £1m was owed by families across Scotland unable to pay for school meals.

The council’s former education convener asked what the level of debt for school meals in Perth and Kinross was, what was being done about it and what support PKC was giving to families to access the free meals they might well be entitled to.

PKC’s head of business and resources Greg Boland said: “Our current debt at the minute is £20,000. We’re obviously working very closely with our families. We obviously try to signpost them to relevant parties to support that and our schools are working very closely with the parents.

“There is obviously a difference between who can pay and who can’t pay and so we work closely with that to ensure we follow up that as appropriate to ensure we minimise any debt we have but equally support any families we have within Perth and Kinross.”

Cllr Shiers asked if Ukrainian families arriving in the area were being given meals and getting the support and information needed.

Mr Boland said: “Yes. We are doing that. And we are providing the free school meal and until all the forms are completed so it’s all done formally but yes we’re providing that meal and the support to the families.”