THE cost of a school meal in Hampshire will go up.

From September 2019 parents will have to pay £2.40 instead of £2.30 for the two-course hot meal their children will have at school.

Watchdogs said this is the result of arbitrarily raising the cost of labour and not tallying that up with government policy.

The decsion was made by civic chiefs at Hampshire County Council (HCC) on Wednesday, when they also agreed that the schools  will continue to be charged £2.30 per meal for those which are provided under the Government’s Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM) grant.

A spokesperson forHCC said: “The revised charge reflects inflationary pressures associated with food costs and staff pay which rose by 6.4% in April 2019, when the hourly pay rate for catering assistants was increased nationally. Over 90% of the cost of a school meal covers food and staff costs, with related overheads accounting for the remainder. Supplying school meals at cost, keeps the price as low as possible for Hampshire families and ensures they receive value for money.”

In a report issued ahead of the meeting  of the he Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services  held on May 8, unpredictable weather, Brexit and alternatives to single use plastic were also blamed for the proposed increase.

HCC said its in-house catering service (HC3S) continues to deliver efficiencies, where possible, “to offset some of these large inflationary pressures” but added that small changes in costs can have a significant impact on the total cost of the school meals service in Hampshire as an increase of one penny on the cost of food per meal would cost HC3S an additional £114,000 a year. 

The authority said the rise represents a 4.3% increase and it is compared to the hourly pay rate for catering assistants rising by 6.4%.

But Duncan Simpson,  TaxPayers’ Alliance’s research director, said: “The National Living Wage and introduction of infant free school meals has meant vast increases in costs for schools across the country. Arbitrarily raising the cost of labour, and not tallying that up with government policy, leads to outcomes such as these in Hampshire. ”