Wales

Gwynedd school meal debts to be tackled with online system

School meals Image copyright Reuters
Image caption One school in Gwynedd was owed nearly £18,000

School meal debts of more than £136,000 in Gwynedd will be hopefully be brought down with a new online payment system, council bosses have said.

Parents in the county had built up the arrears for unpaid dinners over five years by the end of March.

Only six of the county's 87 schools had no debt, with 23 owed more than £1,000 and one school nearly £18,000 short.

The council hopes the online payment system will help prevent debts building up and keep track of money owed.

Gwynedd schools were owed £85,589 for meals at the end of the financial year in March.

But a new report has revealed another £51,231.74 had been passed on to the authority to chase, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The debts are only suffered by primary schools, as secondary school pupils pay at the till for their meals.

The report, to be discussed by councillors on Thursday, warned that recovering school meal debts from parents was said to "take a long time," and in some cases debts had already been written off.

Owen Owens, senior manager for education resources in Gwynedd, said work was "already being carried out to tighten arrangements in terms of school dinner debts".

"Parents no longer have to find the exact money to place in an envelope to pay for school dinners every week," he said.

"This system also allows parents to monitor their payments and to keep track of any payments they need to make."

Mr Owens said the system would also make it easier for head teachers and meal clerks to keep abreast of any mounting debts.

He urged parents "finding it difficult to pay" for school dinners to contact the council, as they could be eligible for free meals.

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