UNION leaders have proposed free breakfasts in Blackpool schools could be limited to a minority of pupils so as not to impact on council staff and services.
The proposal comes as the Town Hall revealed 300 proposed job losses – as part of £13.6m spending cuts – just days after a £700,000 plan for free breakfasts for up to 12,000 primary school pupils was announced.
The council’s executive approved the three-month pilot scheme – which will see pupils offered juice, milk, toast or cereal every day in school from January – at a meeting in the Town Hall on Monday.
Peter Marsden, Blackpool Unison branch officer, raised his concerns over the breakfasts scheme. He said while he supported the ideology behind it, he would like to see more consultation with, and consideration of, staff.
He said: “We understand the thinking behind the aim. But our issue is with a lack of consultation, the timing of the announcement and the likely impact on the budget.
“There has been a lot of different stories on where this money is coming from. We’re worried the Labour group is proposing to take on additional non-statutory costs at the same time as sending ‘at risk’ notices to staff. What do we say to those staff?”
Mr Marsden instead proposed for free breakfasts to be given only to children on a means tested basis.
This, he said, would bring the number needing them down from 12,000 to around 3,300 – based on those already receiving free school meals.
Such an implementation of the scheme would bear no additional cost as the information is already held, he said, and would reduce the £700,000 cost.
But council leader Coun Simon Blackburn assured Mr Marsden his “bold plans” for school nutrition would not be to the detriment of other services and should not be restricted.
He said: “My view is that to restrict it to those currently on benefits lacks ambition.
“It’s not about assisting people on benefits, it’s about relieving pressure on workers, in particular low paid workers.
“I commit to no additional burden on local tax payers to fund this, the money is being brought in from partner organisations.”
Mr Blackburn announced he has three meetings lined up with potential sponsors, one of whom he said was “internationally renowned as a breakfast provider” to form partnerships to keep costs down.
Calls were also made from Unison for further consultation with residents on the pilot scheme.
Mr Marsden added: “We are concerned there wasn’t meaningful consultation with residents.
“If the council executive can give us commitment none of the £700,000 will impact on staff and services and funding will come from other companies we will be better satisfied.”
Mr Blackburn said the council was committed to continuing to consult with residents on the scheme.
Click here to read how The Gazette broke the story: