Central Bedfordshire has become the second local authority in six months to scrap a centralised school meals service and hand responsibility back to the individual schools.
Croydon Council announced last August that it planned to cease its central school meal management at the conclusion of its contract with education catering specialist Eden Foodservices, which also holds the Central Bedfordshire contract.
As a result of the latest decision, 100 lower and middle schools will be expected to arrange their own meals service from September, which the cash-strapped authority says will save £414k.
Simon James, managing director of Eden, told Caterer that the schools affected will be responsible for procuring their own catering service from 31 July.
"I think this falls in line with current government thinking that local government is about the commissioning of services rather than the provision of services," he explained.
This view was shared by catering consultant Vic Laws, AVL Consultancy, who questioned the sense in passing the responsibility on to head teachers who are already under pressure.
He said: "They're not equipped to let catering contracts. I think this will lead to differing standards and prices across schools because there will be differing contractors.
"We want to continue maintaining standards and getting increasing take-up but by fragmenting the services the only things I can see that will go up are the prices."
Eden has held the Central Bedfordshire contract for three and a half years. It was due to expire on 8 April but it was extended to 31 July to give schools sufficient time to select new catering partners.
"We are in discussions with every school to offer them an individual contract, or if they link up with neighbouring schools, a cluster contract for a group of schools," added James.
By Janie Stamford
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