Dundee Liberal Democrat councillors have called on SNP colleagues to reverse what they branded a “socially regressive” decision to increase school meal prices.
Fraser Macpherson and Craig Duncan made the plea after the revenue budget, designed to plug a £15 million gap in the local authority finances, was approved last night.
In defence of the decision, council leader John Alexander explained that the “minimal” increase would be reinvested in services for children and families.
Councillor Macpherson said: “We think the decision on school meal charge increases is socially regressive and fails to meet the goal of tackling social exclusion.
“Many other councils – including Glasgow, South Lanarkshire and North Lanarkshire – are taking steps to make school meals more accessible for school pupils and it is really disappointing that the budget passed in Dundee does exactly the opposite.
“I would sincerely ask the administration to find a way to reverse the school meals increase. The amount of funding required to do this is just £32,000 out of a revenue budget of over £356 million.”
Meanwhile, Labour councillor Kevin Keenan claimed that the budget “lacked ideas and ambition” for the city.
He said: “The contribution of SNP councillors to the debate was complacent and arrogant to say the least and demonstrated that they have lost touch with the people of Dundee and are now merely the administrators of austerity.”
Councillor John Alexander spoke of “real challenges” facing Dundee City Council and insisted the budget decisions were “sustainable and deliverable.”
He added: “We need to be absolutely clear, there has been no increase (to school meals) in seven years and this minimal increase will be 100% reinvested in children and families.
“It is not going to be spent anywhere else other than on these children and I think parents will appreciate the fact that this is about increasing the spend on children – not any other service.
“It was the SNP that introduced free schools meals for all primary 1-3 pupils, it was the SNP that increased the school clothing grant from £81 to £100 and it is the SNP increasing free nursery education for two and three-year-olds.
“I’m proud of our track record and would also reiterate that we will continue provide 1.1 million free meals in Dundee.”