'Championing the rights of children'

Nick Clegg's free school meals funding claims 'were not true'

Garry Sun 11 May 2014 09:10

Senior Department for Education officials raised concerns the deputy prime minister misled the public about the government's free school meals policy, leaked emails show.

Nick Clegg said the cost of upgrading school kitchens could be partly met by unspent maintenance funds.

But email extracts revealed by the BBC Radio 4's World at One programme warned school places might have to be cut.

Mr Clegg's deputy, Sir Malcolm Bruce, said he had been "telling the truth".

The Lib Dem leader announced the policy, which aims to provide all pupils in the first years of primary education in England with free school meals, at his party's annual conference in September 2013.

On the World at One in March, Lib Dem Schools Minister David Laws said: "There was a serious amount of policy work that went into this, and it was costed by officials before the announcements were made at the Liberal Democrat party conference."

But the programme has been told that Education Secretary Michael Gove still did not know how the cost of the school meals was to be funded on 29 November 2013.

'Wholly unacceptable'
Mr Gove wrote to the Treasury: "Now that my officials have had time to fully analyse this policy, it is clear that it cannot be delivered for less than £449m in 2014-15 and £635m in 2015-16.

"I am sure that you will agree with me that we must not risk forcing schools to subsidise meals by reducing their spending on teaching and learning.

Read more... (BBC News - 9 May)