Bradford free school meals scheme axed

image captionMr Gove said the previous government made "unfunded promises"

Plans to give free meals to primary school pupils in Bradford have been axed under government spending cuts.

Bradford Council has been told by the Department for Education that the year-long £8.34m pilot, which was due to start in September, has been withdrawn.

Education secretary Michael Gove said he was not prepared to support "unfunded promises" made under Labour.

Bradford councillor Ralph Berry said he was "very concerned about this ill-advised government cut".

Two months ago, Bradford, Islington and Nottingham councils were told they would be the second wave of a free school meals pilot which started last September in Durham, Newham and Wolverhampton.

The scheme in Bradford was set to start in September and run until July 2011.

'Wide-reaching benefits'

However, in a letter to shadow education secretary Ed Balls, Mr Gove said he had decided to cut the pilot project as part of his department's £670m contribution to the government's overall £6.2bn deficit reduction.

Bradford council said it was now contacting all schools affected by the cuts as many had already started planning for an anticipated increase in demand for school meals.

Mr Berry, executive member for children's services and education, said: "The pilot was to have wide-reaching benefits, including healthy eating, reducing obesity and improving health and well-being."

Mr Gove said he was "sympathetic to the arguments for extending eligibility" of free school meals but the £85m budget for this year put aside by the last government "falls far short of the true cost of £125m".

Mr Gove said he was not willing to risk cuts to frontline services to keep "unfunded promises made under the last administration".

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