A HUGE shortfall in government funding has led to the Isle of Wight Council and Portsmouth Diocese having to spend £464,000 to ensure free school meals can be provided to young children.
Just £226,000 was awarded to the Isle of Wight Council following a pledge by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg to provide all reception, Year 1 and Year 2 pupils in state schools with a healthy lunchtime meal.
The cost of building kitchens and buying equipment is around £650,000, the council confirmed today (Tuesday).
Cllr Richard Priest, executive member for children's services, said: "The council has received a capital grant from the government of just over £226,000, and the diocese has provided additional funding of nearly £70,000 to the council’s allocation to deliver catering improvement works in primary schools on the Island.
"The local authority has directly procured all necessary equipment and building works, with the total cost estimated to be in the region of £650,000. The funding shortfall is being made up from the council’s schools capital maintenance budget. At this point in time we are confident all primary schools will be in a position to provide free meals to pupils once the new academic year begins in September.
"The capital funding from the government is specifically to fund the required improvements to school kitchens to enable the delivery of sufficient meals, not to pay for the meals themselves. Schools will receive funding directly from central government to cover the revenue cost of free school meals, and this will form part of their annual budget.
"Free meals will continue to be available to junior age pupils whose parents receive certain benefits."
* A spokesman for Nick Clegg's office said the plans would save parents on the Isle of Wight around £400 a year. There are around 3,150 affected students on the Island.