THE PROPOSED INCREASE of 10% in the cost of school meals has become the focus of anger for parents and opposition councillors as deliberations are set to take place on the council budget this week.
The chair of the local authority’s children and young people’s services committee insists that the plan is required to shield other vital services from cuts.
However, parents insist that adding such an additional strain on already challenging household budgets was simply unacceptable – the increase taking the daily cost of a school meal to £2.30 in a move that it is claimed would punish already struggling low-earning families.
East End Primary School parent council spokeswoman Susan Munro said that it appeared Moray Council was trying to claw money back from people who are already struggling as things stood now, pointing out that the cost of school meals is a lot of money for many families.
While she has only one child at the school she knows several parents with two or three – and for whom the rise will “just not be affordable at this time”.
Local Labour councillor John Divers insisted last night that he would investigate the situation with local authority officers prior to Wednesday’s meeting: “I can well understand why parents would have deep concerns about this.
“Meals are £2.10 each day and the increase would bring that to £2.30 – it all adds up and you have to question who the administration is targeting to try and get its money back.”
Councillor Alexander, however, pointed out that Moray Council was left in a “horrible” position: “People should remember that we still subsidise school meals and, even with an increase in cost, parents are not paying their full value.
“Children in primaries one to three and those of disadvantaged backgrounds will continue to get free meals and of course there is the option that children be sent to schools with packed lunches.
“This is a horrible situation for the council to be in – but the public must remember the only way we would create these savings is by cutting services, and this is the last thing we want to do.”
The main SNP opposition group have remained tight-lipped over the proposals and are yet to reveal their alternatives ahead of Wednesday’s crunch meeting.