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Conservatives backtrack on £60m for primary school breakfasts

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The Conservative Party has admitted that a key manifesto commitment to provide breakfasts for every primary school pupil in England could cost far more than the £60 million initially promised.

In a second embarrassing U-turn for the party following the debacle over its social care plans, the Conservatives now say the costs of providing breakfasts “will vary depending on how many pupils at any given school take up this offer”.

The party said in an official statement the night before its manifesto launch last week that the policy would cost £60 million, but is now refusing to confirm the figure, leaving the policy uncosted, and prompting questions about its affordability.

Statement: What the Conservatives said about their plans last week

It comes after Schools Week analysis revealed the party’s original costings would mean giving schools the equivalent of less than 7p per pupil to pay for breakfasts.

Education Datalab analysis shows that if only half of pupils take up free breakfasts at a cost of 25p each, the likely cost of the policy would be more than £400 million.

The u-turn calls into question the party’s ability to deliver on its promise to pump extra general revenue funding into schools.

The Conservatives pledged last week to increase the school budget by £4 billion in real-terms over the next parliament.

But it said the extra £1 billion a year needed to do so would be found through savings, including taking £650 million from the scrapped free lunches for infants.

READ MORE: Conservatives’ free breakfast pledge ‘costed at just 7p per meal’

The additional money is supposed to provide protection for schools against rising costs and ensure no schools lose out as a result of the new national funding formula.

However, if the cost of breakfast clubs spirals, there is no guarantee schools won’t be forced to use some or all of the additional funding received under the Conservatives’ plans to fund them.

A Conservative spokesperson confirmed the party will “ensure that all primary schools can offer a free school breakfast to every child in every year of primary school”, adding that evidence shows this is “a cost-effective way to improve education and health results for pupils”.

“The costs will vary depending on how many pupils at any given school take up this offer,” the spokesperson added.

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8 Comments

  1. Dennis ford

    I think they’re making it up as they go along they have not costed any of their so called polices and they expect us to take their word that the sums will add up unbelievable with their track record of running up debt time to get rid of them

    • Jennifer Hornsby

      And the nerve they have rapping on about Labour’s economic incompetence. Labour has costed everything (save for proposed nationalizations, which of course are investment, and not in the budget). Labour for the most past has used the Office for Budget Responsibility for the costings. Perhaps we should call the Tory Party the Party for Budget Irresponsibility.

    • den carter

      and you are exactly right Dennis! This is chaos on a grand scale…they have been caught out by Labour’s renewed popularity and went with Turdochs assurances that he would win this election for them – with the massive funds from their dodgy donors of course – but there has been a backlash, thanks to social media counteracting the msm propaganda.

  2. Alex McQueen

    There should be an external body that can financially audit these manifestos. They get away with making whatever up they want with no accountability.

  3. John Dufton

    Why take away lunch meal only to give them breakfast. . This make no sense at all.
    Just go to show that the tory’s don’t know much things cost in the real world and how to budget.quicker we get them out the better.need someone who can help undo some of the crap which has hurt this country over the last few years.. get rid of bedroom tax..get rid off the t.v line. Get rid of m.p.second home payments also cap there expenses and how much thay can claim back.
    Cut there wages to national min wage so thay can start working for the people who put them in power too do a job.

  4. You’re right, Dennis, and what with that and the DfE’s record of uselessness over managing its own budget, as reported by the Audit Commission in a series of damning report, we should have zero faith in any of the supposed costings on offer. Thank goodness St Theresa is so strong and stable, eh, otherwise there might not be any reason for anyone to vote Tory. Sorry? Did someone say weak and wobbly? Traitor!