Parents to save £437 every year with free school meals
PARENTS in Bury are set to save £437 a year when their children get free school meals.
The government will introduce the provision of hot meals to all children in reception class, year one and year two from next September.
Council figures show more than 6,800 pupils in the borough would be eligible and that it would save their families a total of £2.5 million a year.
The policy, announced by deputy prime minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, sparked a debate at last week’s meeting of Bury Council.
Lib Dem leader Cllr Tim Pickstone said a pilot scheme had indicated that pupils who regularly ate a hot meal at lunch were two months ahead in class than classmates who did not.
He said: “This is a good scheme that will help children and their families and I hope that all three parties can come together and support it.”
While the council passed a motion welcoming “any initiative to support hard-pressed families who are struggling to balance the family budget,” the ruling Labour party amended the motion.
Part of the rest of the motion read: “This council believes that this initiative does not come close to addressing the hardship this Government has placed on families in Bury.”
Bury Tory leader, Cllr Iain Gartside said it was a pity Labour was making a party political issue out of something that all parties should agree on.
But Labour expressed concerns that schools may not be able to cope as many would have to set aside areas currently used as classrooms and activity areas to make more room for meals.
Labour councillor Paddy Heneghan said: “They haven’t considered space or how this will be financed.”
Cllr Pickstone argued that the policy was not due to come into force until next September and that many details were still to be finalised.
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