FAILURE to attract as many Cambridgeshire children to eat school dinners as the county council hoped could lead to a £350,000 shortfall by the end of the financial year. Cambridgeshire County Council accepts it set an ambitious target to increase numbers

FAILURE to attract as many Cambridgeshire children to eat school dinners as the county council hoped could lead to a £350,000 shortfall by the end of the financial year.

Cambridgeshire County Council accepts it set an ambitious target to increase numbers buying school dinners but believes improvements to date have been "impressive".

Finance chief Nick Dawe was to tell cabinet members yesterday (Tuesday) that the budget for 2009/10 had incorporated a target to increase paid meal number by 10 meals per day per school.

"At the end of the summer term, the primary schools paid meals have shown an average increase of just under five meals per day - an increase of 9.5 per cent compared to the same period in 2008/09," he said in a report.

"This is also five paid meals per day per school below target, which equates to 58,600 meals or £111,000 income to end of the summer term."

By the end of the financial year, he said, it will equate to "173,000 meals or £352,000 below budget at outturn".

A council spokesman said: "By the end of the summer term in July this year, we had managed to increase the take-up of school meals by five meals per school per day across the county over the same period last year.

"This was impressive, but fell short of the ambitious target of 10 which we had set ourselves.