£135k school meal debts ‘will ease’
SHE’S Anglesey’s own fabulous farmer but Maggi Noggi will be giving the Royal Welsh Winter Fair a miss this year: the island’s most famous queen will be launching her own chat show the same week.
Having come from nowhere to star in S4C’s Y Salon last year, the channel has given Maggi her own series for the first time.
She has lined up a host of famous faces – and apparently turned many others away.
Among her sofa guests will be her favourite farmer, Llanfairfechan’s
AGareth Wyn Jones.
Maggi is delighted to be bringing a “bit of fabulousness and colour” to viewers’ lives.
“I can’t go anywhere near Bangor these days without getting mobbed,” she claimed.
In her own words, Maggi’s farmhouse near Bodorgan resembles a “regional branch of Claire’s Accessories”. Her alter ego also carries out some proper work on “Noggi Farm” and she claims she has little time to put her feet up.
“How many farmers do you know who have time to relax?” she sighed. BBC Wales report, published last month, found that parents in Gwynedd owed £85,589 in school meal debts at the end of last year, costing the authority much- needed revenue and double the amount shown in any other council.
But, according to the latest figures, the problem in Gwynedd is even worse with the publicised figure reflecting only the amount outstanding on the schools’ books, with another £51,231.74 having been transferred to the authority.
As a result, over the past five years, a total of £136,821.21 was still owed to Gwynedd Council as of March 2018.
Of the published authorities, this compares to £46,164.55 in Powys £46,731.27 in Denbighshire, £38,190.46 in Ceredigion and £26,192.20 in Wrexham.
Garem Jackson, Gwynedd’s Head of Education, told the Education and Economy Scrutiny Committee meeting: “It’s fair to note that we’re only discussing primary schools in this instance as there are separate systems in place. The debt system, historically, was a paper system and we were largely dependent on school clerks. That has now changed, with more amendments also in the pipeline.
“At present, the responsibility of recognising debt on a child’s account is down to the school, who are expected to send a letter out. If no reason nor payment is received, a second letter is sent out notifying that no meals will be available for the pupil unless ths situation is resolved.
“But, in the majority of cases, the schools don’t enforce a policy of refusing to feed a child, and I hope you’d all agree with this viewpoint.”
In March, only six of the county’s 87 schools showed no meal debts at all. But, according to Gwynedd Council, the recent introduction of an online payment system means the process is more convenient for families and makes it easier for the authority to receive reports about specific debts.
Council officer, Bethan Griffiths added: “Thanks to improved monitoring, we want to see debts passed onto the authority quicker so they don’t sit on the school’s books for a long period of time.
“Thanks to the new online system we have much better access to this information.
“We also want to look at a central system rather than schools collecting their own payments. I understand it can be difficult for some schools as they’re often communities in themselves and everyone knows one another and it can be difficult asking people for money.”
Owen Owens, Senior Manager at the Education Resources Service, concluded: “The scrutiny report draws attention to the fact that work is already being carried out to tighten arrangements in terms of school dinner debts.
“We urge schools to make us aware as soon as possible so that we can try to deal with a problem.
“As the report notes, we would encourage families finding it difficult to pay for school dinners to contact the Council as soon as possible. It may be the child could be eligible for free school dinners.”
To discuss school meal debt, parents can contact the education dept or call 01286 682689.