Almost 800 children are to lose their free school meals as council chiefs prepare to vote through “challenging” budget plans this morning.
The controversial move means families who have a household income of more than £15,800 will now need to fork out £10 per week for their child’s lunch.
In total, 770 pupils – aged between four and seven – will be affected at 16 primary schools across the Paisley area.
The nine Paisley schools affected by the cuts are Gallowhill Primary, Glencoats Primary, Heriot Primary, St Catherine’s Primary, St Fergus’ Primary, St James’ Primary, St Mary’s Primary, St Paul’s Primary and West Primary.
Youngsters at Auchenlodment, Cochrane Castle and St David’s primaries, all in Johnstone, will also lose their meal ticket.
And the move will have an impact at Kirklandneuk and St James’ primaries, both in Renfrew, and at Our Lady of Peace and Woodlands primaries, both in Linwood.
In addition, class sizes for P1 to P3 are to increase – from 18 to 25 for the youngest children and to 30 for P3 kids – at the same 16 primary schools.
However, Renfrewshire Council Leader Mark Macmillan insists the £1.4million savings will be reinvested to provide free school meals to all eligible children during school holidays.
He told the Paisley Daily Express: “It has been a difficult decision to make but we believe our priorities must lie with the families who need the help most because, under the current programme, P1 to P3 pupils at just 16 of our schools are provided with free meals whether their parents earn £50,000 a year or not and we want to bring all schools back into line with national guidelines, while providing more for families who use food banks during school holidays.”
As previously reported in the Express, Renfrewshire Council has a £16million funding ‘blackhole’ to fill over the next two years.
As a result, 250 staff are set to be handed voluntary redundancy and contract negotiations will take place with trade union officials.
However, Mr Macmillan has said such actions will help to prevent further job losses and provide investment in housing, roads, sports facilities and services for the young, elderly and unemployed.
He added: “I’m being open and honest and saying there are massive social and economic challenges ahead for Renfrewshire.
“This budget is putting in place innovative approaches and targeted investment to do all we can to support the community in these difficult times.”
Councillors will be presented with details of the budget plans during a meeting at Renfrewshire House, in Paisley, this morning.
The proposals include:
● An investment of £2m for town centre regeneration and investment in buildings, tourism and events
● Around £4.4m to improve services for children, young people and families
● A £30m fund for new and modernised primary school buildings
● An extra £1.8m in the social work budget to support a range of care provision for children, older people and adults who need greater independence
● A £4.3m capital investment on roads
● A further £4.5m to support employment and the local economy
There is good news for sports fans as the council has vowed to slash prices at sports halls and swimming pools, with the hire of pitches for those aged under 18 being halved and the cost of booking synthetic pitches also being halved for all sports clubs in the area.
Mr Macmillan added: “I have heard from local football teams who are driving young players to Inverclyde, Glasgow or even Ayrshire to use their pitches while our pitches lie unused because they are so expensive.
“So, this is an area where we expect to actually make more money by reducing the costs to the public by half.
“It also important that we promote an active and healthy lifestyle for young generations.”
Council tax charges will be frozen for 2013/14.
However, 12,300 council tenants across Renfrewshire will see their rents increase by 4.5 per cent, which will mean an average rise of around £12 per month.