Scrapping school meal debt could finally be on the cards in North Ayrshire after councillors agreed on action.

Labour councillor Robert Foster put forward a motion to the authority's full meeting on May 24 asking colleagues to agree that “North Ayrshire Council agrees in principle to scrap all school meal debt by the start of 2023/24 school year and asks that a report be brought to the June meeting, outlining options including financial implications to achieve this aim”

Councillor Foster added: “School meals debt has risen since we last discussed this and we are still constantly reminding families that they owe us money.

“Twelve councils across Scotland have abolished school meal debt and the last to do so is SNP-led Midlothian.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Cllr Robert FosterCllr Robert Foster (Image: NAC)

“Hopefully we can get cross-party agreement and bin this policy once and for all.”

The Conservatives put forward an amendment, proposed by Councillor Matthew McLean, saying that a report should be brought forward to the June meeting outlining options to scrap the debt by the start of the next school year; this would include financial implications.

They argued that no decision would be made until after the report had been received.

Labour councillor Louise McPhater insisted it was time for action.

She said: “It’s important that we are able to lessen the burden on our constituents so they don’t have to worry about paying £25 for their school meals when that is the last £25 they have.

"This is now – the crisis is here. It’s happening.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Councillor Louise McPhaterCouncillor Louise McPhater (Image: NAC)

“Other councils across Scotland know how urgent this is.  It’s a right to food and it’s a right to education.”

Education cabinet member, depute council leader Shaun Macaulay, agreed with the need to tackle the issue.

He said: “We don’t pursue this debt in North Ayrshire, and no one is harassed to pay it. This is a campaign which has been led by poverty action groups who have done a power of work in this.

“In the paper that comes out we want to give council assurance there are mechanisms in place to support families that are struggling.

“In terms of the motion, it’s sensible to set out the financial implications and free school  meals for P6 and P7 are coming in so we are moving towards that.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald:

“We want to see children who want to learn and are fully fed in schools. In terms of the motion, I think it’s sensible to set out the financial implications as Councillor Foster did suggest.

“We look forward to seeing the range of options put forward by the council at the next meeting.”

The motion was passed by 19 votes to 10.