To Archive List Page

Kelly's Vanishing Millions!

Lots of doshTV chef Jamie Oliver has been twisting New Labour's tail with his campaign to eliminate junk food from school meals. So much so that government ministers have been breaking their necks to assure the electorate that they have been working on the problem for years and Mr. Oliver is some kind of Johnny Come Lately.
   Even so, the bandwagon is there and New Labour ministers have been scrambling aboard with their usual reckless haste. Education Sec. Ruth Kelly, for instance, bounced onto the wireless to declare that New Labour would be thrusting £280 million of 'new money' at school dinners.
   But an hour or two later, Prime Minister Tony Blair was forced to admit that she had been lying, that the £280 million is largely an illusion and that the real parts are all 'old money' which has been moved from one existing budget to another.

   A Big Bit Missing . . .

a big bit missingAlmost a quarter of the £280 million has been earmarked for setting up a new quango, the School Food Trust, which will be packed with the usual New-Labour-client suspects. The rest, £220 million, will come out of the existing education budget at the rate of £73 million per year for the next three years.
   Not long after the prime ministerial announcement, some more gloss was rubbed off the pre-election campaign gambit. The £73 million per year has to come out of a reserve in the education budget, and there's only £30 million in the reserve for next year.

   The Vanishing Quango

And then the quango plan began to unravel. Apparently, only £15 million of the £60 million is coming from the Government's coffers. The rest, some £45 million, has to come from The Big Lottery Fund; a move which breaks the golden rule that Lottery spending should not be a substitute for public funds.
   When questioned, a spokeswoman for the Big Lottery Fund shifted the goalposts yet again. The amount going to the new quango became only 'up to £45 million' and it could be a lot less, e.g. £5 million or even just a couple of quid if the BLF is feeling particularly unco-operative.

   Back To Square One

And as a final twist to the tale, the Department of Education confirmed that the School Food Trust will receive public funding for three years and it has to be self-financing by the end of the three years. Which means that it will have to charge its customers – the nation's schools and parents – for its advice on school meals. Which means that schools will be back to square one and having to decide whether to take the SFT's levy from the budget for school meals, staff, buildings, books, computers or something else.

   New Labour Smoke & Mirrors

So a day that started with a promise of £280 million of new money from the government ended up with a sort-of guaranteed reshuffle of £45 million of old money. Such is the smoke and mirrors world of an unpopular government desperately seeking re-election and the chance to stay on the gravy train.

this report was compiled in accordance with official
New Labour standards of truth and accuracy

To Page TopTo Archive List PageBack to Front page