School catering equipment budget slashed in Northern Ireland

School kitchen 4Contrary to the ample UIFSM funding in English schools, Northern Ireland’s government has decided to cut its school catering equipment budget.

The Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) has sliced the catering budget to schools in the Cookstown area by almost a third, reports the Mid-Ulster Mail.

The amount spent on catering contracts by the local education board has plunged to its lowest in 5 years, dropping from £1,013,086 in 2013/14 to £683,939 in 2014/15.

The figures, which relate to the purchase of catering equipment and the refurbishment of kitchen facillities, were released by the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Department of Education.

SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone said: “The sudden cut in the amount spent on catering contracts for school meals by the SELB is a serious concern. Everyone understands the pressure on budgets and the need to ensure value for money when awarding contracts.

“But the figures show serious discrepancies between the priorities of education boards across the north when it comes to providing school meals. It is essential to ensuring that children are in the best possible position to make the most of their educational opportunities that they receive good food nutrition during the school day.”

An Education Authority, Southern Region (formerly SELB) spokesperson said:

“The figures quoted represent the amount spent by the ELBs on catering equipment contracts and do not represent annual budgets for the school meals service.

“The purchase of catering equipment is determined by the need for replacement items, for new school buildings and for refurbishment of existing buildings and is therefore subject to variation.”