Stop political games on free school meals

24th October 2008 at 01:00

I read with interest the claims of North Lanarkshire's Labour convener of learning and leisure that no Scottish Government funding is available for free meals for P1-3 pupils.

Councillor James Logue and his Labour colleagues should be aware that the commitment to the free school meals entitlement is part of the concordat between local and national government. The amounts included in the three-year finance settlement for this commitment are Pounds 2million in 2008-09, Pounds 20million in 2009-10 and Pounds 38million in 2010-11. West Lothian's share is Pounds 62,000, Pounds 558,000 and Pounds 1.178 million in each of those three years.

Perhaps Cllr Logue could provide the same figures for North Lanarkshire and explain what his council is planning to do with its share of this Government money? West Lothian Council has made full provision to implement the concordat commitment for free school meals.

The commitment is, of course, for free school meals to be provided to all P1-3 pupils from August 2010. In addition, there is a commitment to provide free school meals to all children, in primary and secondary schools, whose families are entitled to maximum children's tax credit or maximum working families tax credit. In West Lothian, our budget will fund that pledge with Pounds 364,000 in 2009-10 and Pounds 1.636 million in 2010-11.

In addition to these revenue costs, West Lothian Council has authorised capital investment of Pounds 900,000 to provide for the refurbishment of four school kitchens and the re-opening of four additional school kitchens which were previously closed by Labour.

The full funding for free school meals for P1-3 children has been provided to local government, and it is now high time that councils stopped playing political games and started to deliver.

Councillor Peter Johnston (SNP), Leader, West Lothian Council.

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