School meals - cheshire east catering services

Cheshire East Council is to close its loss-making school meals service next April, writes Belinda Ryan.

It is also putting up the price of its meals for schools from September until the service ends next year.

The council’s catering service currently provides lunches and snacks to 87 schools and employs approximately 270 people.

Over recent years, the authority has had to subsidise the service – this year to the tune of around £515,000 – which it can no longer afford to do.

In February, the children and families committee deferred making a decision on the closure, so officers could hold talks with head teachers.

At a meeting this week, councillors were told discussions had taken place with affected schools in March and “it is now essential that we make a decision”.

Cllr George Hayes (Con) questioned the impact the price hike from September would have on schools.

“The school where I chair the governing body has set its budget and it’s set its budget based on paying £2.42 per meal,” said the Congleton councillor.

“To then increase that to £3.40 per meal is going to mean that my already very tight budget isn’t going to be tight any more it’s going to be unsustainable and how are we supporting schools?”

Committee chair Carol Bulman (Middlewich, Lab) said: “My understanding is we are subsidising academies and that they will very likely just pass the cost on to parents.”

But Cllr Hayes told the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the meeting: “The schools pay the catering company for the meals on a per meal basis and the increase that is being proposed for some schools will be up to 98p per child per day.

“Similarly, for means tested free school meals, the government only pays a flat rate anyway.

“So even if Cheshire East are charging three pound something, the government rate isn’t necessarily going to rise in line with that so there’s a net loss there as well, which would affect some of our most deprived schools.”

During the meeting Cllr Rachel Bailey (Audlem, Con) said: “In the previous meeting I asked why we had not reviewed the cost of meals for five years and what impact that had had on this decision being expedited.”

Cllr Dawn Clark (Crewe, Lab) raised concerns about milk only being offered as an option with the school meal one day a week and not every day as it had been.

Other councillors also questioned this and the legal and health implications.

They were told by officers the decision to be made that day was only on ending the meals service.

A proposal, by Cllr Bailey, to defer the decision again, until questions could be answered around the milk issue, was lost.

The committee voted to cease trading Cheshire East’s catering service by April 2025.

Seven councillors voted in favour, two against and three abstained.


  1. Des Turner says:

    The figures don’t stack up, plenty of easier ways to feed kids now, the needy children will get looked after but to be honest why are some parents not sending kids to school with food,
    it would be more varied prepared at home and cheaper too, (£3.40 a meal) 270 peoples wages to pay, you are having a laugh, these are our taxes that are being spent wrongly subsidies of over half a million ££££££££££££££££ madness!!!

  2. Tony Jones says:

    For some children this is probably the only hot meal they get in a day, Government and council waste money hand over fist there must be other things they can look at to save money, Children should be a priority.

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