THE cost of school meals in Swansea could face another rise – potentially in January – but parents would be consulted before any decision is made.
Nick Williams, Swansea Council’s director of education, told a committee that staff pay rises and increases in food costs were putting pressure on the school catering budget.
All council departments are trying to avoid overspends come to the end of the financial year on March 31, meaning that some tough decisions may need to be taken.
Mr Williams also said he was concerned that some school governors were requesting pay rises for long-serving headteachers, despite the headteachers having reached the top of their pay scale.
“Unfortunately that’s the scale unless there are more learners (at the school),” he said at an audit committee meeting.
Mr Williams praised the “fantastic” work done by Swansea’s headteachers, describing the role as “a really difficult job”.
But he added: “If I’m not happy with being the director of education and I want more money, I apply for a position for a director of education elsewhere.
“We can’t just keep on topping it (the salary) up, just because they continue to do a good job.”
Teachers are subject to scales of pay. Within those scales, they receive a pay rise – 2.75% this year – if it has been agreed at a national level.
Mr Williams also said he would be challenging schools that had reserves of more than 10% of their budget without clear reasons for doing so.
He said it had been a tough year for schools, and that the council had warned of cuts.
But he said it didn’t help when schools wanted him to “go into bat” for them in budget discussions when their reserves were high.
He said he was referring to some primary schools, and that each case needed to be looked at on an individual basis.
But he warned that reserves could be clawed back by the education department and shared out among other schools.
“It’s not something I want to do,” he said.
The council’s education department is forecast to be in the red by £1.8 million at the end of the financial year, but this position was at the end of the first quarter.
Pressures include home to school transport and pension costs, as well as catering.
The price of school meals rose in Swansea by 10p this year to £2.40 per day.
A council spokesman confirmed that staff pay rises and above-inflation food cost increases were ramping up budget pressures.
“As a result, there is a likelihood that we might need to consult on an increase in the cost of a school meal,” he said.
“No decisions have been made and there will not be an increase in the charge in January without prior consultation.”