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Funding for infant Free School Meals in Leicestershire slashed by over half a million pounds in real terms

June 2, 2022 1:31 PM

The government has slashed funding for free school meals for 4-7 year olds in Leicestershire by £558,827 in real terms, shocking new figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats have revealed.

The party said it is another example of the Conservatives "short-changing our children."

Universal Infant Free School Meals were introduced by the Liberal Democrats, to provide free school meals to all pupils in reception, Year 1 and Year 2. However since the policy was introduced seven years ago, the Conservatives have increased funding per pupil by just 4 pence, from £2.30 to £2.34, or an increase of 1.7%.

It comes despite the latest ONS figures showing food prices have soared by 7% since the introduction of this policy.

Had the funding increased with inflation, it would currently stand at at least £2.46 per pupil. This amounts to a real-terms cut of £35.8 million this year for the 1.57 million children affected nationally, or £22.80 per child.

This real-terms funding cut has left schools needing to fund the extra cost from their own budget leaving less money for textbooks, teachers and catch-up classes.

Responding to these figures, Liberal Democrat leader of the opposition on Leicestershire County Council Councillor Michael Mullaney said:

"Free school meals were introduced as a way of giving children in Leicestershire a healthy lunch every day and saving parents hundreds of pounds a year.

"But the Conservatives have slashed funding in real terms despite food prices going through the roof.

"This is leaving schools to stump up the cash from their own budgets, meaning less money to spend on our children's education and well-being.

"It is another example of this government short-changing children. Liberal Democrats in Leicestershire are calling for a U-turn now to provide the extra funding for free school meals our children desperately need."