Agenda Item No


The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 7th November 2011


Report of the Director of Learning and Development


Catering Service Review Update


Purpose of the Report

1.             To update Members on progress with implementing the Catering Services Review recommendations which were reported to the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee in November 2010.


1.             Members note the progress made to date as well as other developments within the service.

Reason for the Recommendation

1.             To keep Members informed of issues relating to the provision of Catering Services.


2.             At the time of the review the Catering Service covered schools, welfare, hospitality, the Alps catering facility, hospitality and vending machines in Council offices.  The commercial operations at Cosmeston and Dyffryn were contracted out in April 2010.

3.             Given a previous history of this service trading in deficit, a question has been raised about the potential to "outsource" or "contract out" this service to ensure value for money.  As a consequence APSE's Best Value Consultancy was asked to carry out an independent review of the service. The recommendations arising from the review are listed below:

i)           Catering should withdraw operational services to Welfare.

ii)          For the Wenvoe (The Alps) operation to be externalised.

iii)         To retain in-house or externalise the hospitality business which includes the function account, vending and the Chairman's function.

iv)         To agree the proposed new management structure.

v)          For the school meal service to continue to operate 'in-house' and as the core service provision for the Vale of Glamorgan.

Relevant Issues and Options

4.             In 2010/11 Vale Catering Services generated a profit of £87k made up of £73k profit on Primary School Meals and £14k on hospitality and function catering. This has been reinvested to fund essential premises related work required to ensure Environmental Health inspection standards are met in a number of school kitchens. Investment in cashless catering systems has also been possible. In 2009/10 a loss of £22k was incurred due to lost income as a result of adverse weather. This was offset against a corresponding underspend on the client account resulting in a balanced account. Adverse weather in 2008/09 resulted in a loss on the contract of £42k which was offset against a £19k underspend on the client account returning a net deficit of £23k. Over the last 4 years the Catering Service has turned a loss of £115k into an operating profit of £87k.

5.             APSE's first recommendation was for Catering to withdraw operational services to Welfare. The recommendation focused on the financial impact on the catering account rather than the overall impact on the service. Discussions regarding future service provision took place with Social Services prior to the Welfare Catering Manager retiring at the end of March 2011. Certain responsibilities such as the drafting and maintenance of kitchen staff rotas have now transferred directly to the Welfare establishments. The remaining service provision consisting of specialised training and advice continues to be provided by Vale Catering Services via a formal service level agreement.

6.             The review report recommended that the Wenvoe operation (the Alps) is externalised as well as reviewing the subsidisation of the service.  An alternative and favoured option identified in the previous report to this Committee was to close this facility and replace it with a vending facility which would bring it in line with other Council offices. Although it is usual for staff canteens/restaurants to be subsidised, in view of the financial pressures facing the Council, the Heads of Strategic Planning and Visible Services recognise the need for the Alps Depot Canteen to break even thereby generating a saving to the Council of £15,700 per annum. A consultation exercise was conducted with staff based at the Alps in June 2011 to gauge whether changes to the service offering are likely to increase demand. During the consultation period demand increased markedly although this has not been sustained to the extent necessary to cover the subsidy. The results of the consultation have been analysed and changes to opening hours and the product offering are to be introduced for a trial period. The position will be reviewed at the end of the financial year.

7.             APSE's 3rd recommendation is to retain the hospitality business whilst it continues to be profitable. Hospitality is primarily made up of the mayoral functions of which there are 9 per year, a buffet and refreshment service for members and staff which is ordered on an ad hoc basis and the provision and stocking of vending machines in Council Offices. A £14,000 profit was made on this account during 2010/11.

8.             Following the retirement of the Welfare Catering Manager at the end of March 2011 and the Catering Manager during April 2011 the Catering Management and Administrative Team has been restructured and we are currently in the process of appointing to new positions within the team.

9.             With regards to school meals, APSE concluded that the service provides good value for money and should be retained in-house. In response to the need to identify further efficiencies discussions are on-going with neighbouring local authorities in respect of collaborating on aspects of the service. One of the re-designated posts within the new Catering Service Structure will have a focus on marketing the service to increase the take up of schools meals. The new Catering Newsletter, 'Time to Dine', (attached at Appendix 1) was distributed to all Primary Schools during October.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

10.        The Catering Service is on track to achieve efficiency savings of £110,000 over 2011/12 and 2012/13. This will be achieved through a further reduction in staff hours; the management restructure which is currently being implemented and increased income generated as a result of increasing the price of school meals.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

11.        The Council has a statutory duty under the 1999 Local Government Act to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which its functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

12.        The Council has a statutory duty under Section 512ZB of the Education Act 1999 to make arrangements for free school meals for eligible pupils, to provide facilities for eating lunch and to provide access to a paid meal service if requested.

Crime and Disorder Implications

13.        There are no crime and disorder implications.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

14.        There are no implications at this stage.

Corporate/Service Objectives

15.        The Healthy Schools Initiative which includes school meals is a priority in the Health, Social Care and Well-Being Strategy. The continued improvement of healthy food choices in schools features in the Children and Young Peoples' Action Plan. Improving the health of citizens and encouragement of healthy lifestyles is a Corporate Objective and implementation of the Appetite for Life Strategy and the Welsh Health Option Awards is a supporting action within the Corporate Plan.

Policy Framework and Budget

16.        This is a matter for Executive decision by the Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

17.        Consultation was carried out with Members, Headteachers and Officers as part of the review.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

18.        Lifelong Learning.

Background Papers

APSE Catering Service Review Report

Contact Officer

Paula Ham, Head of Strategic Planning and Performance

01446 709161

Officers Consulted

Catering Manager

Responsible Officer:

Bryan Jeffreys, Director of Learning and Development