Proposed price increases to both secondary school meals and school ‘breakfast club’ play sessions were approved at Wrexham Council’s Executive Board this week (Tuesday, February 6).
Councils across the UK are facing huge budget challenges, and the proposed increases are among the latest cost-saving measures to be put forward in Wrexham.
Secondary school meals
Under the changes, the cost of a secondary school meal will increase from £2.65 to £2.80 (other menu items – such as snacks – will be subject to equivalent increases).
Councillor Phil Wynn, Lead Member for Education, said: “Secondary school meal prices remained unchanged from September 2019 until September 2023, when they were increased by 20p.
“However, further increases in costs and budget challenges mean we’ve had to review prices again, with a proposal to increase the cost from £2.65 to £2.80 with effect from April 1.
“Unfortunately we can no longer afford to fully absorb ongoing cost increases, but we’ve tried to protect pupils and parents against the full impact of rising food costs.
“The ‘meal of the day’ option still offers good value for money and even after this increase, the price of a secondary school meal in Wrexham would remain in line with those of other local authorities in north Wales.”
Morning play sessions (primary schools)
Many primary schools in Wrexham offer a free breakfast as part of a 30-minute play session before school. Under the proposals, there would continue to be no charge for this.
However, many schools also offer an additional (earlier) 30-minute play session and charge parents £2 per child.
But increased staffing and administrative costs, current budget pressures and the fact the council receives no external funding mean we’re having to review our charges.
As part of the changes approved by the Executive Board, the fee will increase to £3 per child with effect from April 1 (£1 for children eligible for free school meals).
This increase will not affect the 30 minute breakfast session immediately prior to the start of the school day, which will remain free for all children.
Councillor Wynn said: “We know this comes at a time when many residents are finding household costs a challenge, and we’re not looking at any of these options lightly.
“However, increasing the fee to £3 would help ensure schools can continue to provide additional play sessions.”
Budget pressures facing the council
Wrexham Council continues to be pro-active in tackling budget pressures, with new cost saving proposals regularly being put forward to Executive Board.
As well as tackling in-year budget pressures, the council is working on a shortfall of £22.6m next year, and had already been forced to make cuts of over £60m between 2016 and 2020.
This highlights the scale of the challenges facing all councils at the moment.
Help with the cost of living
If you’re struggling to meet your household costs, please visit the council’s ‘help with the cost of living’ pages for advice on any other help you may be able to access.
Welsh Government also has a ‘cost of living help’ page, which provides information of sources of possible financial support.