Kelly's Vanishing Millions!
TV 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.
A Big Bit Missing . . .
Almost 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.
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.
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.