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Parents And Schools To Be Compensated Over Meals Fiasco

school dinner

8:14am 23rd October 2014

Parents and schools in Dorset will be compensated for major failings with the free school meals scheme.

Chartwells have agreed to give schools £2,100 each for out of pocket expenses.

It's after failings by contractor, who served up poor quality lunches, with some children going hungry.

The council awarded a large, single contract covering 107 schools and more than 11,000 pupils in Bournemouth, Poole and the rest of Dorset in response to the Government's announcement of its universal free school meals policy for key stage 1 pupils. The aim of this agreement with Chartwells was to ensure remote rural schools received the same service as schools in urban areas.

At a "call to account" on the issue, Audit and Scrutiny committee members last week heard from council Cabinet members, officers and school meal providers in Dorset in a bid to establish what went wrong and how a similar situation can be avoided in future.

The committee also heard from the contractor, Chartwells, which is responsible for the supply and delivery of the food. They apologised for the failings and pledged that the opening of a new production kitchen in Poole would fully resolve the problems after the half-term holiday.

The Cabinet were told that Chartwells have agreed a compensation package for both parents and schools. Letters have been sent to parents explaining that they can receive a refund for everyday from the beginning or term until 9 September and compensation for missed or late deliveries between 10 September and 30 September.

Cllr Spencer Flower, leader of the county council, said:

"We have taken on board the findings from the audit and scrutiny committee. It is imperative that we produce a comprehensive action plan to address the issues that have been identified."

The action plan will be produced in the next three months and will consider the contracting process, communication channels between the contractor, schools and the council and remedial actions that could be put in place should problems arise in the future.

Caroline Morgan runs Bridport based award winning company - Local Food Links - she thinks Chartwells bit off more than they could chew.

"Instead of one large contract that in the end only one large company could go for, I would like that to be broken up, and I do believe that that will happen in the future, as there are very good small local providers in Dorset."

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