Home Politics Sour Milk?

Sour Milk?

by Barry

There has been a lot made of the fact that the state of the economy has given the Tories the ideal opportunity to do what they have always wanted to do and that is cut as much support/benefits as possible because in theory they are things that stereotypical Tories don’t use anyway.  I have been willing to give them a fair amount of slack becuase the fact remains that no matter who was going to be in government, there were going to be savage cuts!

However the fiasco with the free milk issue has really highlighted something for me, that maybe there is something in the accusation.

Anne Milton had come up with the idea of removing the benefit, and in her opinion:

“Abolition of the scheme is likely to be highly controversial, particularly as this will affect some children in low-income families.”

However, she added: “This should not prevent us from ending an ineffective universal measure – and this would clearly be the best time to do it, given the state of public finances and the need to make savings.”

This is worrying in the first instance, the way that she is happy to use the finance issue to cut it off, regardless of the effect upon low-income families.  But more deeply, it seems that she has made this recommendation because this is the “best time to do it”, not because of the savings value to the economy.  In plain terms, she did not care how much it would save, just that this is a good time to slash it.

Then you have the fact that it was almost there, and David Willetts, the higher education minister, was briefing it on live TV, when David Cameron decided he might get the same backlash as when Maggie last tried to do it and canned the idea.  Mr Willetts had to be told by the presenters what Cameron had done.  Nothing like having the rug pulled by your boss.

The implication of this is bizarre.  Either there was a good economic model for chopping free milk and Cameron got cold feet and was worried about his reputation, or Chopping free milk was something they were trying to slip in and got caught, and therefore Cameron had to ‘save’ the situation.

It just proves we have to scrutinise every move, and keep asking questions.  I would love to know where the Lib Dems were at when all this was going on.


Catherine Mitchell August 9, 2010 - 6:07 am

I thought the free milk was an EU subsidy or something which didn’t cost our Government money up front initially?

bazkirby August 9, 2010 - 8:22 am

Catherine, I think your right, a quick google:

European Union subsidy rules allow LAs and schools to offer nursery and primary school pupils a maximum of 250 ml of subsidised milk a day for drinking. The European Union Milk Subsidy Scheme is run by the Rural Payments Agency and claims should be made through the LA, dairy or organisation set up to provide milk in schools.



Under the EC School Milk Subsidy Scheme subsidised milk and plain yogurt can be supplied to primary school children in all of the UK. The scheme is operated by the Rural payments Agency based in Exeter.

Schools can capitalise on the availability of a European subsidy for MILK. At present only 23/25% of primary schools are offering subsidised playtime/lunch time milk for children aged 4 to 11 years. 60% of these children are under 5 years of age and benefit via the Dept. for Health’s Welfare Scheme in conjunction with the EC School Milk Subsidy Scheme. This means 90% of UK primary school children aged between 5-11 years are not being offered the opportunity to benefit from the European funding.

Every child in Europe (aged between 2.5 – 19 years) is eligible to benefit from the EC school milk subsidy scheme – this subsidy is a tangible benefit for every European family.


The scheme is discretionary. Some elements are compulsory others such as catering milk, secondary school and cheese are optional. The UK only operates on the minimum level for primary school children.


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