Decision details

Provision of Catering services to Schools

Decision Maker: Cabinet Member - Children and Young People, Cabinet Member - Finance and Efficiency

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: Yes

Is subject to call in?: Yes


Consideration of ceasing to provide catering services to schools from September 2018.


The Cabinet Members agree that:


1.  Agree that as it is estimated that only a few of the 81 schools in the area will now use this service from 1st September 2018, and as the economics of this service now make it unviable in its present form, the Council role as a direct provider of school meals will cease operation on 31st August 2018, in line with the operational plan of the council.


2.  Schools that still use  the service will be advised of the changes and supported to find alternative suppliers

Reasons for the decision:

The Council has for many years been the main provider of meals to schools but schools are now deciding to procure this service elsewhere. As schools convert to academies there is often a change in their purchasing decisions and alternative suppliers are being chosen to deliver meals to schools and Multi Academy Trusts (MATs)

Currently there are 55% of schools who converted to academies and by September 2018 it is anticipated 76% of local schools will have become academies. The schools governing bodies make the choice of conversion and request the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) for permission to convert. The RSC can also instruct a school to convert to an academy if certain performance issues are identified. The Local Authority does not have decision making powers in this process.

The reduction in the Council’s economies of scale are making the service less economic and price increases have been made in prior years with further price rises becoming inevitable. Schools have been made aware of this and helped to assess the market and make their own decisions.

The price rises needed to overcome the dis-economies being observed will make the service unviable and consideration of ceasing to provide the service is required. The Council now needs to support the remaining schools in the area to complete their procurement of this service from elsewhere.

The decision required is about the Council’s role as a provider of a catering service and needs to reflect the impact of academisation, previous decisions by schools together with the economics affecting the service.  The decisions about the meals themselves rest with the schools and it is not intended that there need be any direct impact on children that receive school meals. 



It is apparent that the financial pressures being observed by the service cannot be allowed to continue

Alternative options considered:

The option of outsourcing the service had been considered but rejected as it contradicts with schools led approach.

Continued delivery with a plan to find alternative clients to ensure economies of scale was rejected as the need to supply to a relatively local market would require clients in reasonably small distance. This was actively tried in prior years and additional clients had been obtained from cross boarder activity. However, those schools have also all found alternative suppliers.

Publication date: 09/03/2018

Date of decision: 08/03/2018

Effective from: 17/03/2018

Accompanying Documents: