A CONTROVERSIAL policy which charges Monmouthshire families for school breakfast clubs has lost the local authority £78,000.

While the breakfast remains free for all children, parents pay a daily charge of £1 per child for childcare sessions.

Opposition councillors have branded the policy a “moral and financial disaster” and have called for it be scrapped.

The Conservative administration had hoped the changes would raise £125,000 last year but only £47,000 has been recouped since its introduction in September.

Extra staffing costs led to £28,000 in lost income, though some of this money was used to support children with additional learning needs.


Councillor Richard John, cabinet member for children, young people, and leisure, said it was “impossible” to predict how many families would stop sending their children to the clubs.

“We made a decision that parents who can afford to make a small contribution towards their childcare costs should do so, instead of receiving free childcare paid by the council taxes of people on fixed and limited incomes,” said the Conservative councillor.

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“To protect our most vulnerable families there is no childcare or breakfast charge for any pupil who is entitled to free school meals.”

Cllr John claimed that the breakfast clubs continue to be well attended by all pupils, including those on free school meals.

But the number of children using the clubs fell from 1,480 between September and March in 2017/18, to 1,176 in the same period in 2018/19 – a drop of 20 per cent.

Councillor Dimitri Batrouni, the leader of the Labour group who raised the figures in June, urged the cabinet to abandon the charge.

He said: “Both morally and financially this policy is a disaster.

“The Tories wanted to make extra money off hardworking families and have found people are struggling.

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“They are out of touch and don't realise many people are finding it hard to make ends meet.”

Liberal Democrats group leader Councillor Jo Watkins, a long-time opponent of the policy, described the loss of income as “genuinely concerning”.

“It’s worse than I expected,” said Cllr Watkins.

“This is meant to be generating income that can be spent on other things, but what’s going to happen now? Is that money going to be cut from somewhere else?”

Some parents are also struggling with ParentPay, the online-only system used to pay for school meals which requires a separate account for breakfast club payments.

Cllr Watkins added: "It just adds another layer of complexity for parents who are just about managing."