Thousands of nursery kids lose out in dairy firm’s battle with government

ONE of Scotland’s biggest dairies has abruptly stopped milk deliveries to thousands of nurseries after health chiefs found apparent discrepancies in its claims on a milk scheme.

Scotts, which delivers to more than 10,000 UK nurseries and 1300 across Scotland, has written to nursery managers saying it would “not be able to purchase or deliver your milk until this is resolved”.

This has meant one Edinburgh nursery has been left to buy its own milk for its 61 enrolled children.

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Little Learners, on Lasswade Road, and several others only learned of the problem when Scott’s managing director Jonathan Scott sent out an e-mail last Friday.

Nursery manager Lyndsay Grant said: “I had to go out and purchase milk today, which was an inconvenience and a cost to the nursery. I was only advised via e-mail on Friday that the service would not be provided by Scotts until things had been resolved their end.”

Julie McMorrine, of Blossom Tree Nursery in Gilmerton, added: “We were given no prior warning about our milk supply ending. We have a very tight budget and now have to factor in extra unexpected costs.

“I spoke with a rival milk supplier and they have been inundated with calls from city nurseries looking to switch supply – so much so that it will be mid-January before they can arrange it.

“This means I will have to fork out myself until then.”

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In his e-mail to nursery bosses, Mr Scott claimed: “We have not received any payments in the past week from the nursery milk scheme despite all your efforts and ours to resolve these issues with validations and milk claims, and to be paid so that supplies can return to normal.”

However, health chiefs have refused to budge, saying no payment will be made to the milk supplier until “discrepancies” are cleared up in relation to the amount of milk being claimed for.

At present under the government-funded nursery milk scheme, every child in Britain under five is entitled to receive free of charge 189 ml (a third of a pint) of milk for each day they attend approved day care facilities for two hours or more.

The current nursery milk scheme has been running since the 1940s, but a review was ordered earlier this year after analysis showed that modernising the operation of the scheme could save up to £20 million each year.

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At present, the scheme is overseen by the Westminster’s Department of Health as it remains as yet non-devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

A DoH spokesman said: “It is right we ensure public money is spent correctly, which is why payments have been withheld while we validate claims where discrepancies have emerged.

“We are committed to working constructively with Scotts to explore in more detail how these issues have arisen with the intention to resolve them.”

Figures show that the government is spending up to 92p for a pint of milk through the scheme, while most consumers can pay 45p.

Around 1.5 million under-fives in the UK in 55,000 childcare settings receive free milk.