Scots council raises price of school dinners for first time in six years

A senior SNP councillor said the increase was 'regrettable' but 'unfortunately necessary' due to rising production costs and inflation.

Perth and Kinross Council raises price of school dinners for first time in six years iStock

School dinners in Perth and Kinross will go up in price on Tuesday for the first time in six years.

A senior SNP councillor said the increase was “regrettable” but “unfortunately necessary” due to rising production costs and inflation.

But a Labour councillor has blamed a Scottish Government funding shortfall of at least £500,000 to provide free school meals to all P1-P5 pupils for the price hike.

Alasdair Bailey claimed, “this is not free school meals for P1-5s, it’s a case of eat-now-pay-later”.

From Tuesday, April 16 the cost of a primary school meal will increase from £2.15 to £2.25, a secondary meal from £2.30 to £2.60, and an adult meal will soar from £3.70 to £5.

At the budget meeting earlier this year the SNP administration rejected immediately imposing the steeper increase on pupil meals proposed by council officers – of 75p for primary school meals and an 85p increase on secondary school meals – but approved the £1.30 increase for the cost of an adult meal.

At the February 28 budget meeting, council leader Grant Laing instead said his SNP administration would reduce the increase on primary meals in 2024/25 and phase the secondary school in increase over three years “to manage the impact on families”.

Perth and Kinross Council (PKC) has said the rise is needed because of “the significant impact of inflation on food and operational costs involved in delivering the school meal service”.

It is the first increase in school meal charges across Perth and Kinross since 2018.

But Labour councillor Alasdair Bailey has slammed both the increase and slimmed-down menu.

He said: “It’s not only the prices going up, children will notice that the range of options available to them have decreased from today, especially in secondary. Plus we’re told that there will be fewer ‘high-cost items’ in the meals. This worrying shrinkflation of the school menu combined with the price hike saves the council over £500,000 per year.”

Bailie Bailey blames the price hikes and reduced menu on a government funding shortfall. At this year’s budget, he brought an invoice of £500,000 for the Scottish Government to fully reimburse PKC for the cost of delivering the SNP election manifesto promise of free school meals to all P1-5s.

He said: “It turns out that the amount PKC receives from the Scottish Government for the ‘free’ meals falls between £500,000 and £1million short of the cost of providing them depending on how they’re accounted for.

“It strikes me therefore that this is not free school meals for P1-5s,it’s a case of eat-now-pay-later as the council is forced to hike prices and decrease quality higher up the school in order to deliver on the government’s universal free school meal policy. That’s why I brought an invoice to the council meeting back in February.

He added: “I’m told by officers that it’s not legally possible to send that invoice to ministers but I really do think that they should pay PKC the full cost of delivering on their election manifesto promises! Therefore we’re owed at least £500,000 every year and if we had that money then the local SNP council leadership wouldn’t need to hike the prices higher up the school or shrink-flate the menu as we’re seeing happen today.”

SNP councillor John Rebbeck – who convenes the Learning and Families Committee – said the price rises were “regrettable” but “unfortunately necessary”.

The Perth City North councillor said: “It is regrettable that school meals in Perth and Kinross have had to increase at all, but given the fiscal position we find ourselves in, a proportionate increase is unfortunately necessary.

“Tough decisions have had to be made but the priority of this administration will always be to focus our resources on, and support, our most vulnerable young people.

“It’s important to note that most of our primary school pupils and many of our secondary school pupils will pay nothing at all for their school meals, and I look forward to the Scottish Government further expanding the provision of free school meals to ALL primary school children in the near future.

“Tayside Contracts has recently produced its new menu, which we hope young people will enjoy.”

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