Members of the Commercial and Investment Committee today (Friday 20 July) considered the progress made since the decision was taken in February to close the Catering and Cleaning Service (CCS).
The Committee previously agreed that the Council should focus more on supporting schools to serve good, nutritious meals rather than being the provider in an increasingly competitive marketplace. CCS has been working closely with schools throughout the process, providing them with the information they require to undertake the tender process and helping them to identify an alternative provider.
This has included a range of workshops, telephone calls and one-to-one support for schools with procurement or other concerns. CCS also manages the Shire Hall servery and Central Library Café both of which will close at the end of August 2018.
In April CCS gave six months’ notice to those schools who had yet to confirm their plans, meaning that school meal provision will finish at October half-term, to ensure that CCS has sufficient staff to support schools as they move to new providers and for the service to stay on track to close by the end of 2018. CCS will, at the beginning of September, review if there are any schools that are struggling to find an alternative provider and provide them with further support.
Councillor Josh Schumann said “We remain committed to supporting schools to fulfil their duty to provide balanced and healthy school meals and will help them to secure high quality, healthy and cost-effective catering. All suppliers in the market follow the Government’s Food Standard Guidance. When we discussed this initially concerns were raised that a number of small rural schools would struggle to attract private catering providers, however this has not proved to be the case.
“Schools are finding that clustering together helps to achieve greater buying power and economies of scale. For example, three small rural primary schools -Castle Camps, Burrough Green and Great Abington - have clustered with the large infant school in Linton. The schools are up to 13 miles apart demonstrating that schools do not need to be geographically close to form a cluster. Along with clustering, small schools are also managing to find an alternative provider independently. Many schools are choosing to take the cleaning provision in house, as it’s a more straightforward and logical move for schools.”
Guy Underwood, headteacher at Great Abington Primary School said, “We have worked together as a cluster of schools and developed a procurement approach that considered quality and nutrition as well as price. The support package put in place by CCS enabled questions to be quickly resolved and helped staff to understand the process. Governors with a legal and food industry background supported both before and after the selection of the new caterer. The process concluded very successfully and we are now ready for September with an ambitious and exciting new food offer for our pupils.”
The majority of CCS staff, who are based in schools, will transfer to the new catering and cleaning suppliers. The non site-based staff who will be at risk of redundancy are being supported in a variety of ways including help with CV writing and interview skills assistance.