Further investigation found the same problem at eleven additional PFI sites.
Wirral has a number of schools constructed using PFI that are managed by Wirral Schools Services Limited. It is not known if any of the schools on the Wirral are affected by this. Here is the information from the report.
“Case Study 2: Fire Separation in Major Construction projects
24. A site visit to a local school on 9th January 2015 following a fire on 7th January 2015 (incident no 32304) identified serious fire separation concerns due to smoke spread from the ground floor kitchen to the 1st floor protected staircase.
25. The school was built as part of a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) initiative. The investigation led to 11 additional PFI sites where the same issues were detected. As the issues potentially had national implications Protection Officers utilised the CFOA [Chief Fire Officer Association] Community of Practice to share the risk information. It was subsequently established that the same issue had been found in other major new-build / refurbishment projects across England with estimated repair bills totalling in excess of £100m.
26. Officers escalated the issue to the CFOA Fire Engineering Technical Standards Group due to the national potential in order that the risk information can be effectively shared with other Fire and Rescue Services and that national guidance is produced to ensure that these issues are dealt with consistently and effectively.”
Will either of the two Wirral councillors (Cllr Lesley Rennie and Cllr Jean Stapleton) on MFRA’s Performance and Scrutiny Committee ask if any of the Wirral PFI Schools (Leasowe Primary, Bebington High, Birkenhead Park School (previously University Academy Birkenhead and before that Park High), South Wirral High, Weatherhead High, Hilbre High, Prenton High, Wallasey High and Wirral Grammar Girls) or the two Wirral PFI City Learning Centres (Wallasey City Learning Centre and Hilbre City Learning Centre) are affected by this?
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What does an election year, Cllr Phil Davies, the Schools PFI contract, Lyndale School and the Wirral Schools Forum have in common?
What does an election year, Cllr Phil Davies, the Schools PFI contract and Lyndale School have in common?
Added at 8/10 12:04 In response to a reader comment about this article, I am at the start of this adding a declaration of interest, in that my wife Leonora has the liability for Council Tax at the property we both reside. Council Tax is mentioned in this article. However it is already public knowledge that we both reside on the Wirral.
The next month (September 2014) I was asked to come and collect a paper copy of the contract from a Wirral Council building in Hamilton Square, Birkenhead, which it later turns out is incomplete and missing at least a few hundred pages (which I suppose is to be expected when you’re dealing with Wirral Council)!
One of the duller sides of journalism and blogging is the amount of reading you have to do to write properly about the topics you’re writing articles on. An alternative route is to just use a lot of quotes from experts. After all when I write about matters, people leave comments and sometimes ask follow-up questions in the comments or by email so I try and familiarise myself with the topic I’m writing about first so this can be easily done. This contract runs to 2031, costs ~£12 million a year and is with a company called Wirral School Services Limited (and others).
The day before yesterday I ploughed through the rest of the Schools PFI contract Wirral Council has with Wirral Schools Services Limited (at least the bit of it I have and isn’t missing). Some of the is haven’t been dotted and the ts crossed on the pages I have and there is a large chunk of it that is missing there are some bits I am unsure of. I’ve asked for the rest but how long that will take I’m not sure!
The contract has many boring details that even I find dull to read that I hope even you dear reader would not really find particularly interesting, such as details about school boilers, how many square metres rooms are in various schools on the Wirral & what colours the hot and cold water pipes are (although knowing my luck I’ll end up with a comment from an interested heating engineer telling me how much they’d love to read a detailed article about the building maintenance side of schools).
The Schools PFI contract also has the level of detail of the full names, NI numbers, dates of birth and other details of various employees employed to work at these schools such as cleaners and other staff. Wirral Council also runs the multi-£billion Merseyside Pension Fund, so there is an admission agreement with Merseyside Pension Fund to do with pension rights. There are pages and pages of details about staff as part of an admission agreement with Merseyside Pension Fund. I will however not be publishing such detailed information on living people as it would be a goldmine for ID fraudsters and the height of irresponsible journalism to publish dates of birth, NI numbers and names for large numbers of people!
In order to explain, I need to first write a summary about what this Schools PFI contract is about. This is based mainly on the index.
Part of it is a series of leases to Wirral Council for nine schools and other type of educational premises called city learning centres covered by the contract. At the end of the contract (2031 or earlier if the contract is terminated or modified) ownership of the schools and City Learning Centres reverts back to Wirral Council. Part of the contract is also for services provided at the schools and City Learning Centres such as school meals, caretaking, repairs to the buildings et cetera. Some information on this goes to the schools themselves, some to Wirral Council. There is also a joint liaison committee set up with people from Wirral Council and the contractor.
There are also variations within the contract to account for differences between the schools, for example from memory* (*the caveat is I don’t always remember things correctly and haven’t double checked this against the contract again) I think Leasowe Primary School uses a slightly different system for school meals to the other secondary schools.
Some of the contract also relates to transitional provisions from the previous supplier Jarvis. This applied really in the early stages of the contract.
It’s all very long and very complicated and unless you have an interest in the area or are involved with Wirral Council, one of the nine schools (which are Leasowe Primary, Bebington High, University Academy of Birkenhead (formerly called Park High), South Wirral High, Weatherhead High, Hilbre High, Prenton High, Wallasey High and Wirral Grammar Girls) or two City Learning Centres (Wallasey City Learning Centre and Hilbre City Learning Centre) involved or the contractors in some way it’s probably not very interesting to you. It also interestingly falls into the set of contracts that Wirral Council will be legally required to publish at some future stage in the coming weeks.
The contract is so long and heavy (even with the missing pages) that I had to familiarise myself with our manual handling procedures just to figure out how to lift it up (and am grateful to myself that I didn’t drop it on my foot).
The first section marked “Private and confidential” is an agreement between Wirral Borough Council  and Wirral Schools Services Limited  dated 9/9/2004 and is called “Deed of Amendment and Restatement relating to Wirral Schools PFI project”. Addleshaw Goddard (a law firm) are mentioned at the bottom which are I presume are the law firm that drafted it. This section is 10 pages. This was when it was renegotiated in 2004.
So Section 1 – “Deed of Amendment and Restatement relating to Wirral Schools PFI project” 9/9/2004 10 pages
Then there’s section two, which is a “CONFORMED COPY” of a project agreement dated 27/3/2001 between Wirral Borough Council and Wirral Schools Services Limited which was amended and restated pursuant to the “Deed of Amendment and Restatement” (I’ve just mentioned) dated 9/9/2004. Rowe & Maw or 20 Black Friars Lane, London are at the bottom of the title page, their ref is 617/343/476/27909.1. Rowe & Maw were a legal firm based in London, they then became Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw in 2002 and in 2007 shortened their name to Mayer Brown. Apparently now they are the 22nd largest law firm in the world.
Section 2 – “Project Agreement amended and restated pursuant to a Deed of Amendment and Restatement dates 9/9/2014” dated 27/3/2001 198 pages
Schedule 1 (Volume 1 of the schedules) between Wirral Borough Council and Wirral School Services Limited is mainly series of headleases and underleases for various schools:
Pt 1 Bebington Headlease (16 pages and refers to Land Registry title MS435412)
Pt 2 Hilbre Headlease (16 pages and refers to Land Registry title MS435411)
Pt 3 Park High Headlease (15 pages and refers to Land Registry title MS435414)
Pt 4 Prenton High Headlease (8 pages) * note the copy I have been given is partially incomplete as this is missing pg 9 and schedules 1-4
Pt 5 South Wirral High Headlease (15 pages and refers to Land Registry MS435824)
Pt 6 Wallasey Headlease * missing
Pt 7 “Not used”
Pt 8 Weatherhead Headlease * missing
Pt 9 Wirral Girls Headlease * missing
Pt 10 Bebington Underlease * missing
Pt 11 Hilbre Underlease * missing
Pt 12 Park High Underlease * missing
Pt 13 Prenton High Underlease * missing
Pt 14 South Wirral High Underlease * missing
Pt 15 Wallasey Underlease * missing
Pt 16 “Not used”
Pt 17 Weatherhead Underlease * missing
Pt 18 Wirral Girls Underlease * missing
Pt 19 Plans * missing
This comes to only 55 pages supplied out of an estimated 280 which is hardly a way for a Council to comply with its requirements under the audit legislation is it!? Hopefully they treat Grant Thornton (their external auditors better than this)!
Schedule 2 and 3 following it are then completely missing. I wonder at times if Wirral Council can’t do something simple like actually making a copy of a contract for the purposes of the 2013/14 audit without messing it up, what else are they getting wrong (are they deliberately trying to hide something)?
Schedule 2 Financial Matters * completely missing all parts 1-8
Part 1 Lenders Direct Agreement * missing
Part 2 The Council’s Design and Building Contract Direct Agreement * missing
Part 3 The Council’s Support Services Management Direct Agreement * missing
Part 4 Design and Building Contract Performance Guarantee * missing
Part 5 Support Services Management Agreement Performance Guarantee * missing
Part 6 Initial Senior Funding Agreements * missing
Part 7 Other Initial Funding Agreements * missing
Part 8 Rules for Refinancing * missing
Schedule 3 Works * completely missing parts 1-10 and appendices
Part 1 Design Development Procedure * missing
Part 2 Prohibited Materials * missing
Part 3 Schedule of Key Dates * missing
Part 4 Outline Design Documents * missing
Part 5 The Completion Standards * missing
Part 6 Decant Programme Methodology * missing
Appendix 1 Decant Programme: Park High * missing
Appendix 2 Decant: Further Obligations * missing
Part 7 Handback Requirements * missing
Part 8 Project Programme * missing
Part 9 Construction Site Rules * missing
Part 10 Handback Survey * missing
Schedule 4 between Wirral Borough Council and Wirral School Services Limited is to do with Payments and is split into:
Cover pages (2)
Part 1 Definitions (11 pages, definitions from “Agreed Market Testing Proposal” to “Zone Drawings)
Part 2 Services Contract Payment (5 pages)
Part 3 Performance Deduction Look-up Table (1 page)
Part 4 Table of Service Units per School (1 page) GSUs for each school totalling 28,047 GSUs
Part 5 Monitoring (7 pages)
Part 6 Utility Services (5 pages)
Part 7 Third Party Use (4 pages) dealing with issues such as vending machines
Part 7A Catering (6 pages)
Part 8 Value for Money Testing (12 pages)
Appendix 1 Form of Performance and Payment Report (45 pages) These are examples of the payment reports that go to each school either from Jarvis Workspace FM or Wirral Schools Services Limited.
Schedule 5 is the Accommodation Services Output Specifications (82 pages long)
Schedule 6 is the Support Services Output Specifications
Part 1 Building and Asset Management Output Specifications (12 pages)
Part 2 Support Services Requirements and Performance Tables (59 pages)
Part 3 Service Level Agreements (such as control of pests) (141 pages)
Part 4 Service Level Agreements Alteration Procedure (4 pages)
Schedule 7 Reports and Records
Part 1 Reports (3 pages)
Part 2 Records (2 pages)
Schedule 8 Variations
Variation Notice (1 page)
Schedule 9 Insurance (2 pages)
Part 1 The Part 1 Insurance Period (10 pages) deals with construction all risks, business interruption insurance & public liability insurance
Part 2 The Part 2 Insurance Period (8 pages) deals with property all risks insurance, business interruption insurance & public liability insurance
Appendix 1 Endorsements (4 pages)
Appendix 2 Broker’s Letter of Undertaking (4 pages)
Appendix 3 Business Interruption Insurance – the Authority’s Obligations as Insurer (4 pages)
Appendix 4 Schedule of Insured Parties (2 pages)
Schedule 10 Liaison Committee (4 pages)
Schedule 11 Compensation on Termination
Part 1 Definitions (6 pages)
Part 2 Project Co Default (6 pages)
Part 3 Authority Default (2 pages)
Part 4 Notice by the Authority (8 pages)
Part 5 Fore Majeure, Uninsurability and Planning Challenge (1 page)
Part 6 Corrupt Gifts (1 page)
Schedule 12 Dispute Resolution Wirral Borough Council & Wirral School Services Limited
Cover pages (2 pages)
Dispute Resolution (9 pages)
Schedule 17 Quality Systems
Part 1 Design and Build Period Quality System (24 pages)
Part 2 Operational Period Quality System
Appendix 1 A Quality Policy (1 page)
Appendix 2 B Certificate of Approval (2 pages)
Appendix 3 C Proposed QA Implementation Plan (1 page)
Appendix 4 D Contact Directory (1 page)
Appendix 5 E Local Procedures (1 page)
Schedule 18 Employees
Part 1 Employee Information (6 pages)
Part 2 Terms and Conditions of Employment (1 page)
Schedule 19 Admission Agreements and Bonds
Part 1 Jarvis Workspace FM Limited (Wirral Borough Council and Jarvis Workspace FM Limited and Wirral Schools Services Limited) Merseyside Pension Fund Admission Agreement with Transferee Admission Body (15 pages)
Part 2 Compass Group PLC
(Wirral Borough Council and Compass Group PLC and ??? ) MPF Admission Agreement with Transferee Admission Body (12 pages)
(Wirral Borough Council and Compass Group PLC and ???) Agreement for a bond and indemnity in respect of sums due under an admission agreement arising from the premature termination of a best value arrangement (8 pages)
Part 3 MTL Commercial Limited (22 pages)
Part 3 is an admission agreement to the Merseyside Pension Fund between Wirral Borough Council, MTL Commercial Limited and Merseyside Pension Fund from 2001. This also relates to an unfilled in guarantor (which I will have to assume is Compass Group PLC), MTL Commercial Limited and Wirral Borough Council as well as a bond and indemnity. This admission agreement also relates to Jarvis Workspace FM Limited. This is one of the schedules which includes pages and pages and pages of staff surnames (organised alphabetically by staff surname), initials for staff names, NI (National Insurance) numbers, post titles, pension and birth dates et cetera. However on the copy I was supplied with much has been left incomplete such as the date the agreement was agreed in 2001, the office address of MTL Commercial Limited and much other detail is missing too such as director and secretary signatures.
The end of schedule 19 is an agreement between Wirral Borough Council and MTL Commercial Ltd and ???? which is titled “Agreement for a bond and indemnity in respect of sums due under an admission agreement arising from the premature termination of a best value arrangement”. This too is incomplete and unsigned.
Schedule 20 is a one page staff security protocol which details the information staff have to provide on any criminal matters and also references they have to provide before getting a job. There is also information detailed here that they have to provide to their employer during their employment if things change.
Schedule 21 is “operational site rules” – 19 pages long
Schedule 22 is a “draft transitional services agreement” which is an agreement for the supply of transitional services between Wirral Borough Council and Jarvis Workspace FM Limited which is 145 pages long
Schedule 23 is about the City Learning Centre (8 pages long)
Schedule 24 is the “non moveable equipment schedule of rates” (5 pages)
As the contract is so long, has been supplied incomplete and falls within the category that Wirral Council should be publishing within a matter of weeks, I won’t be scanning in the whole contract and publishing it! If there are any sections you would like me to publish though (that aren’t in the missing sections) please leave a comment or send me an email.
Just to make it clear the amount paid under the PFI contract isn’t going up by £2.5 million a year as it’s pegged to increases based on RPI.
The ratio between December 2013 RPI and December 2012 RPI was an increase of 2.674%.
There is then an “efficiency factor” of 10% built into the contract.
So, 90% * 2.674% = 2.4066%
So the yearly increase this year in PFI costs is in the region of ~£289,000 . Next year’s increase will be known when the RPI data for December 2014 is published.
So why ask is the Wirral Schools Forum being asked to make £2.3 million of cuts in year (2014-15), in addition to the £600,000 of cuts earlier this year for the Schools PFI contract then and what is this actually going to fund instead?
Well last year there was a 0% rise in the Council Tax (after a budget was prepared a few months before showing a 2% rise). Yes a freeze on Council Tax means Wirral Council got a grant which equates to a 1% rise. I presume for the financial year 2015/16 based on statements previously made by Cllr Phil Davies that senior officers at Wirral Council are also planning for a 0% rise for 2015/16 (although we’ll all find that out for sure over the next few months at a Council meeting as plans are sometimes subject to change).
It’s also interesting to note that Cllr Phil Davies (who is the Cabinet Member for Finance/Leader of the Council) four year term of office comes to an end in May 2014 so this is an “election year” for him (presuming he wishes to stand again which by all the recent press articles about Cllr Phil Davies related to Birkenhead & Tranmere means it is likely that Labour have picked him as the candidate for this area already). What better way for Cllr Phil Davies to get himself elected by telling the voters of Birkenhead and Tranmere that he has frozen their Council Tax (helpfully leaving out in leaflets to the voters in Birkenhead and Tranmere the inconvenient facts that this will come at the expense of cuts made this year (pending Wirral Schools Forum approval) to the money spent on pupils with a disability, statements, support for Special Educational Needs, maintenance of school buildings, axing funding for the School Sports Coordinator & use of swimming baths (although this two last items may be funded in future by schools directly themselves through the traded services) and other in year cuts to the Schools Budget)? Oh and also another inconvenient truth that thanks to cuts made by his Cabinet to Council Tax support many in Birkenhead & Tranmere are now having to pay 22% of their Council Tax bill whereas previously they had to pay nothing as 100% of their bill was covered by Council Tax Benefit?
After all, if Cllr Phil Davies is challenged between now and the elections in May about why he is making all these cuts by presumably the Conservatives, Lib Dems or Green Party, he based on past experience of his answers to this very question will probably blame the need to make any cuts to Wirral Council’s budget on the Coalition (Tory and Lib Dem) government, which of course absolves himself of any responsibility for these “difficult decisions”. This is of course is conveniently leaving out the fact that:
a) Wirral Council decides itself whether it wants to freeze Council Tax, rise it or decrease it each year. There is a majority Labour administration in charge of Wirral Council since 2012 so they make these decisions on the budget, Labour decided the 2013/14 budget, the 2014/15 budget and will decide the 2015/16 budget. If Labour want a Council Tax rise over x%* (a figure set by the government each year which was set last year at 2%) they have to win a referendum of the people and
b) that these are all locally made decisions over how the money is spent and that he’s the Cabinet Member for Finance (therefore he is the politician with democratic accountability to the public (and other politicians) for tax and spending decisions).
Of course there are some that would also say that these plans have come from senior officers at Wirral Council, not the Cabinet Member himself and will ask well is it a case of the officer tail wagging the Labour dog instead of the other way round? However senior officers at Wirral Council and politicians do surprise, surprise work together! These large in year changes to the agreed budget do also show as Cllr Stuart Kelly (Lib Dem audit spokesperson) quite recently pointed out at a recent public meeting that in his opinion this year’s (14/15) budget isn’t stable if changes are being made in year!
In fact at this point a £3 million overspend is predicted by the end of the year! I’m also curious as to why the date of the next Council meeting has been shifted from the 13th October 2014 to 20th October 2014. I’m sure it can’t be just because I tabled a question and they need an extra week to answer! If anyone knows the answer to that mystery please leave a comment?
Here’s an interesting question that stems from all this though. Despite the flim flam and contradictory statements over Lyndale School, is the price of Cllr Phil Davies getting reelected in May 2015 in Birkenhead & Tranmere the closure of Lyndale School (in Eastham) or is he just “rubber stamping” plans of senior officers?
After all the closure of Lyndale School currently pencilled in for January 2016 (if agreed by Cabinet later this year) won’t actually happen until after the May 2015 elections have taken place.
Can the many Labour councillors on Wirral Council seriously sleep at night knowing all this or are some behind closed doors expressing their disquiet about how this has played out in private meetings (especially the ones facing the electorate in May 2015)? Are Labour councillors worried that being directly involved in a decision about Lyndale (whether Cabinet or call in) will either affect their ability to be reselected by their fellow party members or indeed their future election prospects when they face the public at election time? Does this also explain why so many Labour deputies were sent to the Coordinating Committee meeting about Lyndale School last week? It’s all very mysterious isn’t it as one can only guess at what happens behind closed doors!?
I know the Cabinet decision to consult on axing Children’s Centres (currently on hold due to Conservative councillors calling it in) isn’t going down well with some Labour Party members (to put it mildly). That decision (made in the last few weeks by Cabinet) “called in” by Conservative councillors (Councillor Paul Hayes seems to be fast becoming the “call in councillor” and is going to be reviewed at a special meeting of the Coordinating Committee on the 15th October 2014 starting at 5.00pm (you can read the papers for that decision here).
Will Labour councillors decide that enough is enough when it comes to children’s centres, or will they agree with the Labour Cabinet and agree to start a consultation on closing them?
We’ll just have to wait and see! Please leave a comment on the above as I am interested to read your views!
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Free School Meals and pages 87-88 of Wirral Council’s ~£12 million/year PFI contract with Wirral Schools Services Ltd
Free School Meals and pages 87-88 of Wirral Council’s ~£12 million/year PFI contract with Wirral Schools Services Ltd
This is a small part of the Schools PFI contract that Wirral Council has that costs the taxpayer this year ~£12 million a year. This is part of a massive contract that I estimate being between 500 and 1000 pages long.
It relates to the following schools (one primary and eight secondary) plus two City Learning Centres:
University Academy of Birkenhead (formerly called Park High)
South Wirral High
Wirral Grammar Girls
Wallasey City Learning Centre
Hilbre City Learning Centre
Before I start on quoting from the contract on page 87, I need to first explain what the following terms mean.
“Authority” refers to Wirral Council.
“Schools” are the schools listed above that are part of the PFI contract.
“Category A Consumers” means “school meals supplied to those pupils at a School who pay for meals and/or refreshments taken in the Catering Area of the Schools.”
“Category B Consumers” means “those pupils who have been notified to Projet Co as being entitled to free meals, and who take these meals in the School’s Catering Area.”
Category A Consumers & Category B Consumers are treated as non-business for VAT purposes. To be honest a lot of this contract is about tax!
“Category C Consumers” means “meals supplied to members of staff of the Schools and visitors who have been notified to Project Co as being entitled to a free meal are supplied free of charge by the Authority to the consumer and output tax is not applicable.”
“Category D Consumers” are “meals supplied to persons other than pupils who take and pay for a meal and/or refreshments are treated as taxable supplies for VAT purposes. Project Co shall include the appropriate rate of VAT in the prices charged for such meals and refreshments and supply output statistics and the value of VAT output tax to the Authority within a timetable specified by the Authority which has been agreed with HM Customs & Excise”
Right now onto the bit of the contract about free school meals (pages 87-88), my comments are in italics.
20.4 Free School Meals
(1) The Authority has a duty to provide free school meals to those pupils at the Schools who fall into Category B Consumers. Members of staff and visitors of the School who are Category C Consumers are also entitled to a free meal paid for by the Authority or School.
OK, reasonable so far, restates legal requirement in sentence 1. Didn’t know about sentence 2 though… which is a tad unclear as to who pays.
(2) The Authority will issue to all individuals referred to in Clause 20.4(1) a card (the “Smart Card“) in a design to be agreed from time to time by the Authority and Project Co, but including the person’s name, photograph and the name of the School, which shall be credited with cash equivalent to the number of free school meals that person is entitled to in that Contract Month.
Wow, things have changed a lot since my day. So, just because their parents are on means tested benefits, you’re insisting children have photo ID and presumably present such photo ID every time they get a “free school meal”? Sounds like it’s “free” but with strings attached?! OK, call me a civil liberties person who rejoiced when the Coalition government scrapped the ID card plan, but forcing children from poor backgrounds to use photo ID?? Maybe I’m just old fashioned?
(3) The Authority will, using its own data and confidential information on free meals, prior to the commencement of each Contract Month issue a list to Project Co of the number of persons entitled to free school meals.
So wait a sec, Project Co is being given a list of all children that get free school meals and children also have to present photo ID to get them? What’s the point of the photo ID then??? Why not just ask them their name or am I missing something??? Surely kids know their own name? Yes, it’s “confidential information” so why is Wirral Council handing it over to a private company as part of this contract??? *sentence deleted following editorial meeting* Bristol based Wirral Schools Services Limited was called Jarvishelf 2 Limited prior to 29th December 2000.
(4) Project Co will invoice the Authority on the last day of each Contract Month for the number of free school meals supplied to Category B Consumers at the Meal of the Day Price together with VAT if applicable.
Eh, I thought page 86 said that Category A&B Consumers were “non-business” for VAT purposes? I suppose I’m not a contract lawyer being paid an extortionate amount to write this stuff though.
(5) Project Co will invoice the Authority on the last day of the each Contract Month for the number of free school meals supplied to Category C Consumers at a charge pre-agreed with the relevant School together with VAT if applicable.
Free meals for staff and visitors eh? Must be one of the few perks of the job I suppose… mind you teaching staff have to put up with a lot so I suppose a “free school meal” is the least they deserve.
(6) In addition to Clauses 20.4(4) and (5), Project Co will invoice the Authority on the last day of each Contract Month for any function, hospitality or visitors’ meals supplied together with VAT if applicable.
Functions, hospitality, oh dear are we getting into “golf” territory again eh? OK, I can envisage visiting sports teams from other schools needing something to eat, staff from other schools and places, meetings held at the school etc, but how much “hospitality” goes on in a school anyway. I get the impression Wirral Schools aren’t inviting the Mayor of Helsinki over every week to their school for a start (or maybe they are?)
(7) Project Co in its capacity as agent for the Authority (or the relevant Support Service Provider acting on behalf of Project Co) will provide:
(a) to each Category B Consumer bearing a Smart Card, a meal to the value of the Meal of the Day Price; and
(b) to each Category C Consumer bearing a Smart Card, a meal to the value of the pre-agreed charge referred to in Clause 20.4(5).
Oh dear, cash seems so old fashioned now doesn’t it? What’s “Meal of the Day” anyway? Gruel? Bread and water? Maybe I’m thinking of Oliver (the musical). I find it worrying that even at primary school age kids are forced to use photo ID cards just to get what they’re entitled to although maybe that’s just the way society has changed. It’s enough to drive people to packed lunches! What if the poor child leaves their “Smart Card” at home, do they go hungry? No “Meal of the Day” for them? After all in the days of cash (yes seems I’m old fashioned), your friends could give you (or even lend you) the money if you were short at the till. No more it seems in these contracts for cashless school meals!
(8) If the price of a meal chosen by:
(a) a Category B Consumer exceeds the Meal of the Day Price; or
(b) a Category C Consumer exceeds the value of the pre-agreed charge referred to in Clause 20.4(5)
the bearer shall be responsible for crediting its card with the excess via the dining room tills and the Authority shall have no liability in respect of the excess. If the price of a meal chosen by a Category B Consumer or a Category C Consumer is less than the value of the Meal of the Day or the pre-agreed charge (as the case may be) Project Co or the relevant Support Service Provider shall be entitled to retain the excess.
Wow, just wow. Let’s take a hypothetical Meal of the Day price at £2.30 (which this recent article about the Cabinet decision on increasing it helpfully provides). If someone choses items to eat that go over this £2.30 threshold, they have to pay more. If someone choses items that go under it, there is no refund but the “Project Co” (Wirral Schools Services Limited) or “Support Service Provider” gets to keep the difference!!! I suppose that’s what you call capitalism!
Category B Consumers are free school meals paid for by the taxpayer. However, even if the cost of providing such meals (out of taxes) is less than the “Meal of the Day” price, this company charges the taxpayer at the “Meal of the Day” price and makes profit on the difference! Yes, they’re making profit out of school children’s’ meals!!!
And so ends the lesson for today on capitalism. It goes without saying that the Cabinet Member for this area at the time the contract was signed in 2004 was Councillor Phil Davies (currently Leader of the Council) doesn’t it?
And yes, there are even more worrying bits of this massive contract (that keeps on running in the gift that keeps on giving for the capitalists for well over another decade) than the minor section on free school meals above, but if I wrote about the but I’m thinking about it would probably lead to questions being asked (even a panic!) and I might be misconstrued due to the millions of pounds that particular bit involves being transferred from Wirral Council to this company to sort out that “mistake”. No wonder the first page is marked “private and confidential”!
However there are some positives about this new approach:
(a) other pupils can’t do the faux pas I did when I was 10 and transferred schools in year 6 (last year of primary school). The new school I transferred to was in a “working class” area, whereas where I had come from was “middle class”.
I reminded a friend of mine (I still remember this embarrassing conversation twenty-four years later although I hope the other guy has forgotten it by now) he’d forgotten to pay at the till for his school meal for him to look extremely embarrassed and have to explain that he hadn’t forgotten to pay and that he was on free school meals. I then committed a second faux pas as I had to ask what “free school meals” actually meant as at age ten I didn’t know why (strangely but perhaps understandably my education (paid for by Wirral Council) had been somewhat lacking to this point on the intricacies of the UK welfare benefits system in 1991, free school meals and other such matters). Such matters were communicated by schools in mind numbing detail to parents in long detailed communications, but concepts not really understood by ten year old children such as myself (the guy I was talking to understood but not me). Maybe these days children have a better understanding of such things than I did then or maybe they don’t.
In the approach above (as outlined in the contract) all kids are issued with a photo ID card and presumably the children on free school meals don’t have “FREE SCHOOL MEALS” emblazoned in large capital letters written on the card.
(b) it reduces the risk of bullying of kids for their lunch money as the card has a photo on it. Unlike money the photo ID cards (unless you happen to be identical twins and I remember the identical twins when I was at school playing all kids of jokes on the adults as their fellow children could tell them apart but the adults couldn’t) can’t be transferred between people easily if the photo is compared to the person using it.
(c) all this bureaucracy is why some parents then and now probably just opt for the simpler option of packed lunches (although if your family is entitled to free school meals this might be ruled out on terms of cost). The upside is no queuing, parents know what their children are eating and fewer profits going to companies making money out of the taxpayer and others.
(d) free school meals have been introduced for all primary school children this month by the Coalition government for under 7 year olds (1.5 million children). The fact all children on this age group (and not just those on means tested benefits) get an entitlement to free school meals should cut down on a lot of bureaucracy.
To put it simply, it is far easier from an administrative perspective giving everyone an entitlement to a free school meal from school age to age seven, then having to process each form detailing the benefits that qualify a family (who may have one or more children at one or more schools) for free school meals, checking that said benefit is now claimed and if so over which dates, tracking said child through the school system if they move schools and sorting out the paperwork, et cetera, et cetera. The current system is a minefield of bureaucracy and takes a lot of staff time who could be using their time to do things that are more use to society than shuffling paperwork around (not to say that isn’t important).
It’s also been a lot of work for schools, a lot of work for the LEA too, which has reduced somewhat now, although a lot of questions have been asked before and after this change about the knock on effect of how the “pupil premium” is calculated as this is a measure whereby schools get extra money based on how many children there get free school meals.
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