Council balances books after £500k kitchen deficit

A county council has spent almost £500,000 of its own money meeting the cost of equipping new school kitchens in its area, it has been revealed.

Oxfordshire County Council was awarded £1.5m from the government’s UIFSM kitchen upgrade pot, but the cost of works came in at closer to £2m.

Some 53% of primary schools in the county — 123 out of 232 — had to improve their catering facilities to cope with the introduction of the free school meals scheme last month.

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However, the council has now been able to balance the books after councillors agreed that the extra £480,000 it paid out would be covered by a ‘Catering Investment Fund’.

The fund is understood to be a trading account surplus accumulated from previous catering provision activities.

Not all officials are happy about the UIFSM measures, though. County councillor Melinda Tilley, the cabinet member for education, told the Oxford Mail that she was angry at having to spend the money on a “mad” policy.

She said: “An awful lot of parents I talk to say they didn’t need it and they still don’t need it. There are also people who are eligible for free school meals who are now not applying for them and that means they don’t get the pupil premium [which helps determine school funding]. It is utter madness.”

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