SIX local authorities ran up losses on school catering services totalling just over Pounds 1.3 million during the 1997-98 financial year.
This was revealed in last week's report by the Accounts Commission into the finances of council direct labour and service organisations, ordered by the Secretary of State following the discovery of huge losses in North Lanarkshire and East Ayrshire.
Councils say a variety of factors lie behind the deficits. The school catering operations in Edinburgh and Glasgow recorded deficits of Pounds 689,000 and Pounds 172,000 mainly due to one-off redundancy costs and retirements.
Aberdeenshire, in the red by Pounds 324,000, blames the fact that fewer pupils took meals than expected. East Lothian, where there was a Pounds 39,000 deficit, says the results are unaudited.
Stirling's Pounds 15,000 loss comes not from school and welfare catering but from the authority's own staff canteen, which ran into trouble after the council withdrew its subsidy.
In North Ayrshire, which had a shortfall of Pounds 115,000, Bernard Devine, the chief executive, said: "There is no disputing the fact that the results are disappointing."