- Meeting of Cabinet, Tuesday, 18 July 2023 10.00 am (Item 3.)
- View the declarations of interest for item 3.
items which, in the opinion of the Chair, should be considered at the meeting
as a matter of urgency pursuant to Section 100B(4) of the
Local Government Act 1972.
Free School Meal Holiday Provision – recent announcement by
the Welsh Government that free school meals would not be extended over the
The Leader accepted a request from Councillor Delyth Jones
to consider the following matter requiring urgent attention –
Free School Meal
Holiday Provision – announcement by the Welsh Government that free school meals
would not be extended over the summer holidays.
Councillor Delyth Jones referred to the late announcement by Welsh Government not to extend free school meal provision over the summer holidays and expressed concerns over the adverse effect on families most in need. She had been proud of the roll out of free school meals for all primary school pupils under the co-operation agreement between Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru and did not want to see that work disrupted as a result of this latest decision. Consequently, she asked that further discussions be undertaken with Welsh Government with a view to reversing that decision, and also to consider the cost to the Council should steps be taken to address the situation in order to support vulnerable families in Denbighshire.
Councillor Gill German (Lead Member) provided some background to the current position and latest extension of the free school meal holiday provision up to May half term as announced in March. Despite Welsh Government’s best efforts, the financial reserve for that provision (which had been largely based on covid emergency funding) had been exhausted, and schools had been making families aware since March that there was no guarantee of a further extension. However, it was important to make sure as many families as possible were catered for during the school holidays and she elaborated on the significant work and wealth of initiatives to support families in that regard. Examples included signposting families to Welsh Government support with the cost of living, Food and Fun School Holiday Enrichment Programme for free activities/meals, work carried out by Families First and Flying Start with a comprehensive list of activities for families including cooking sessions and take home ingredients. Community groups were also working to bridge the gap and support families. Assurances were given that much work was being carried out to help address the situation and further opportunities would be explored to make sure as many families as possible were supported.
The Head of Finance and Audit reported on the financial position, advising that the temporary funding provision had been administered by local authorities on behalf of the Welsh Government. To continue the funding provision over the summer holidays would cost the Council between £600 – 700k, and would result in a £1m+ pressure over a year term. As Section 151 Officer he would not be able to support a continuation of that funding given the Council’s challenging financial outlook.
The Leader reported on the achievements of the co-operation agreement and successful coalition of the two political parties both in the Senedd and the Council. He had been heartened to hear of the hard work to target families most in need and ensure they could access support, and provided assurances that dialogue would continue with the Welsh Government on this issue for the benefit of those families. Councillor Delyth Jones acknowledged the hard work being carried out and given the importance of the issue was keen for further discussions with the Welsh Government. She also noted the Council’s difficult financial circumstances but wanted to continue to explore other avenues to support those families. Councillor Rhys Thomas worked with a number of voluntary organisations and was aware of schools making referrals to third sector organisations for support. He asked that the Council email all Denbighshire schools before the summer break reminding them of the support available to be shared with parents/carers. Councillor Gill German reiterated that those conversations were ongoing with schools but agreed to take the matter up with the Head of Education with a view to ensuring a reminder of the support available was circulated to all schools before they closed.
The Leader thanked Councillor Jones for raising the matter and for the assurances given regarding the hard work being carried out and support available for families.