Despite concerns about pay and outsourcing practices raised, Labour ignored alternatives and recommitted to outsource school meal provision
In today’s meeting of the new Children, Families & Schools Committee, Labour brought a report that sought to re-tender the school meals contract.
Greens criticised the report for insufficient detail, and called for more evidence to be presented that would substantiate Labour’s claims that in-housing would not be viable. Greens also raised concerns that Labour’s approach avoids better wages and terms & conditions for those workers providing school meals, as it is effectively refusing to pay them the council’s wage bracket. Whilst the contractor would commit to paying a living wage (£10.90/hour), the council’s own lowest wage bracket is higher (£11.59/hour).
The previous Green administration had requested that the possibility of bringing school meal provision in-house be explored, such as the model used by Plymouth City Council who co-own a co-operative trading company alongside 67 local schools. This fuller report was not presented to the committee.
There is extensive evidence demonstrating that in-house service provision gives better results. For example, the Association for Public Service Excellence has argued that public ownership provides better value for money, flexibility, innovation, support for workers and accountability to the public.
Children, Families & Schools Spokesperson Cllr Sue Shanks [she/her] said:
“This was the first Committee Meeting this term, where Greens were pleased to support increased pay for foster carers, and raised the important matter of more reports regarding parent and child satisfaction for children with special educational needs and disabilities. We are already proving to be a constructive opposition.
“We are disappointed that Labour did not meaningfully consider a better system for school meal provision. The report lacked key evidence backing up their decision, with financial details skimmed over.”