SCHOOLS across the country will raid their own budgets to cover the cost of children’s free meals, it has been revealed.
Nearly a third of all councils are struggling to pay for Nick Clegg’s plan to give four to seven-year-olds free lunches due to a staggering £23million funding gap.
Overall, a total of 29 councils will struggle to foot the bill from September and in some areas schools are forking out to pay for expensive kitchen upgrades to deliver the policy.
Some primary schools with more than 150 pupils are being asked to cough up around £250,000 – a quarter of the cost of improving kitchens.
The figures will create further controversy surrounding the policy, which was announced by the Deputy Prime Minister at last year’s Liberal Democrat party conference.
Clegg insisted last month that the £600million plan was ‘fully funded’ but many school heads warned they did not have the space or facilities to provide meals for 1.5 million children.
Labour’s shadow schools minister Kevin Brennan said: “David Cameron urgently needs to explain to parents why some schools will be forced to fund this commitment out of their own school budgets, how this will affect standards at those schools and which children will be missing out in September.”
A number of councils say they have not been given enough money from the Government to fund the programme from September and some councils have a shortfall of up to £4million.
It was reported last week that more than 3,000 schools will buy in pre-prepared meals and either keep them warm or reheat them in mini-kitchens.