Council agrees to ‘write off’ pupils’ meal debt, but warns some charges ‘will be collected’

Perth and Kinross council owe £20,000 for unpaid school meals.

Councilors agreed to write off the debt at a meeting last week.

The council has accrued debts to the sales register; housing tax ; non-domestic tariffs; irrecoverable rents; housing benefit overpayments and unpaid parking fees.

As well as unpaid school meals, the council’s outstanding debt included £278,900 deemed ‘uncollectible’ in council tax, £269,612 in non-domestic charges, £363,100 in housing rent and £103,873 in income from the parking exchange account. Many debts have been accumulated over several years.

The Finance and Resources Committee of Perth and Kinross Council (PKC) has been asked to approve debt cancellation at its meeting on Wednesday June 15.

While the debts will be written off for accounting purposes, the officers’ report assured the committee that “the cases are not closed and that every effort will be made to collect the outstanding debt when new information becomes available and collection will be profitable”.

The school meals debt figure came in response to questions from Conservative councilor Caroline Shiers. Earlier this month, the Aberlour Report revealed that more than £1million was owed by families across Scotland unable to afford school meals.

The council’s former education officer asked what the level of school meals debt was in Perth and Kinross, what was being done about it and what support PKC was giving families to access the free meals they could be right.

PKC head of business and resources Greg Boland said: “Our current debt at the minute is £20,000. We obviously work very closely with our families. We obviously try to direct them to relevant parties to support this and our schools work closely with parents.

“There’s obviously a difference between who can pay and who can’t pay and so we’re working very closely with that to make sure we’re tracking that appropriately to make sure that we’re minimizing any debt we have but also supporting all the families we have in Perth and Kinross.”

Cllr Shiers asked if Ukrainian families arriving in the area received meals and received the necessary support and information.

Mr. Boland replied, “Yes. This is what we do. And we provide the free school meal and until all the forms are done, so everything is done officially, but yes, we provide that meal and the support for the families.

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