Posted: Wed 7th Feb 2024

Price Increases to Secondary School Meals and Primary School Play Sessions in Wrexham Labelled as “Alarming”

North Wales news and information

PRICE increases to secondary school meals and primary school play sessions in Wrexham have been labelled as “alarming”.
Members of Wrexham Council’s executive board today (Tuesday, February 6) approved several price hikes as the local authority faces a forecast budget shortfall of £22.6m for the next financial year.
The changes mean that the cost of a secondary school meal will increase from £2.65 to £2.80, while other menu items such as snacks will be subject to similar increases.
Council officials said the uplift was necessary due to increases in food costs which the authority could not afford to cover itself.
Meanwhile, many primary schools in Wrexham offer a free breakfast as part of a 30-minute play session immediately before school.
Under the changes, these will continue to be free, but charges for extra 30-minute play sessions held beforehand will increase from £2 to £3 per child with effect from April 1.
The authority said the decision had been taken due to increased staffing and administrative costs, but one opposition councillor described the measures as “quite alarming”.
Labour’s Bryan Apsley, who represents Llay, said: “We can’t hide from the fact that we’ve got major problems, but I would’ve thought that in any scenario it would be deemed to be extraordinary.
“Can we consider that fee to be fair in the overall situation that we’re in?”
It’s estimated that the increase in charges for pre-breakfast play sessions in primary schools will generate an extra £170,000 for the council, while the uplift in secondary school meal prices is expected to raise £50,000.
Despite the rise in charges, Wrexham’s lead member for education said the council would still be subsidising both services to some extent.
Cllr Phill Wynn said: “I do accept that it’s a significant percentage increase but we’re trying to operate on a cost recovery basis.
“Even at that charge, we’re not going to recover the true cost that we incur as an authority.
“The other increase that’s contained in the report relating to school catering is the inflationary increase for secondary school meals.
“That itself isn’t full cost recovery. We continue to subsidise secondary school meals and will continue for as long as our finances permit us to do so.”
Members of the council’s ruling independent/Conservative coalition previously approved measures worth £12.1m to address the financial deficit for 2024/25.
The latest proposals ratified at today’s meeting take the total value up to £13.8m, leaving a gap of £8.8m left to fill.
Further proposals are due to be brought before the executive board later this month as it looks to set a legally balanced budget.

By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter



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