School milk budget cuts in West Sussex won’t be reversed

‘It seems the spirit of Scrooge is alive and well in West Sussex this year’.

Tuesday, 15th December 2020, 11:59 am
West Sussex County Council is saving money by cutting free milk during morning breaktime for some children (Photo by Graeme Robertson/Getty Images) PNL-200214-135210003

With those words a county councillor hit out at the authority over its decision to save £40,000 by axing break-time milk for children who receive free school meals.

The decision will mean one less drink of milk per day for more than 1,200 youngsters, though they will still be offered milk or water at lunchtime.

Schools have also been told they can pay for the break-time milk out of their own, already over-stretched, budgets.

At a meeting of the full council on Friday (December 11), Labour leader Michael Jones called for the decision to be reversed, accusing the council of being ”fairly relaxed about kids from deprived families not getting the nutrition they need’.

Nigel Jupp, cabinet member for education, accused Mr Jones of not understanding the situation and pointed out that the Schools Forum had approved the cuts.

But the minutes for the forum’s March 19 meeting recorded ‘great concern’ about the situation, saying it was ‘not realistic’ for schools to pay for the milk out of the pupil premium budget and that a large number of schools ‘may not recognise the importance of milk for pupils at an early age’.

The minutes stated: “Children on Free School Meals come from some of the most disadvantaged families in our communities, many on low wages or benefits and often in situations where inadequate family incomes exist to provide anything but a relatively poor diet at home.”

Records from the forum meeting of June 18 show that one governor was not happy that the milk budget had been cut ‘especially as it was a meeting that was held behind closed doors’.

Adding that only two forum members objected because many were getting ready for lockdown, she said: “At a meeting I would have had an opportunity to inform the meeting of the value of milk to pupils on Free School Meals as I have done in previous years.

“I feel more than ever it is needed now.” 

The motion was lost by 41 votes to 17 with four abstentions.