Union concern at council kitchen staff policy

A union has claimed that while the Scottish Government is provides free school meals to early years children South Ayrshire Council is shutting down school kitchens and telling staff they are no longer required.

However South Ayrshire Council says it is continuing to provide high quality school meals for children and saving £1 million for the taxpayer.

A GMB Scotland Freedom of Information request has revealed that South Ayrshire Council has made payments to departing staff totalling £390,000 while at the same time the council has made payments of £31,000 to an employment recruitment agency, to fill the gaps left by staff no longer employed.

Paul Arkison, Regional Officer GMB Scotland, said: “GMB Scotland has consistently campaigned against cuts being made by South Ayrshire Council in their schools which affect catering, cleaning and janitors

“GMB has raised concerns that the amount of staff who are leaving the council will mean that the remaining staff will struggle to cope with the increased workload to maintain services.

“GMB has concerns that, in particular, school meals could suffer.

“However South Ayrshire Council has ignored these concerns and pushed through changes. Many staff have now left the council with some staff accessing pensions and others receiving payments if they were not part of the pension scheme.

“Members are stunned and dismayed at how South Ayrshire Council can waste such a huge amount of money in this way.

“At a time when the Scottish Government are providing early years primary children free school meal the council is shutting down school kitchens and telling staff they are no longer required.

“Then to add insult to injury South Ayrshire Council has spent over £30,000 on an employment agency to fill the gaps of dedicated council workers who have left. Many of these workers did not want to go and desired to remain in employment with the council.”

David Burns, Head of Housing and Facilities for South Ayrshire Council said: “Our aim is to deliver high quality and efficient services and the changes we have made will save us more than £1 million.

“With these changes, we’re continuing to provide quality, healthy and nutritious school meals to pupils – this is just being done in a different way for some schools.

“We need to ensure we maintain service levels for pupils and colleagues, so we have made use of agency staff – when absolutely necessary – to ensure meals get served, schools get cleaned and our schools run efficiently.

“Our recruitment exercise to fill outstanding posts, including posts to deliver free school meals, is underway to ensure we continue to provide the best possible facilities management service for the people of South Ayrshire.”