Seymour confirms temporary funding for free school lunches

Associate education minister David Seymour has confirmed temporary funding will be put in place for the free school lunch scheme until a review is completed.

Funding would continue for the “next few years” as officials worked out what the alternative program would look like, Seymour said.

“They won’t end, but they will continue in a different form. Right now we are saving the plan and keeping it going for the foreseeable future until we have made those policy decisions.”

Budgeting temporary funding for the program is what the Coalition spent months criticizing the previous government for.

He has repeatedly described Labour’s time-limited funding for free school lunches as a “fiscal cliff”.

When asked by RNZ how she could accept a fiscal cliff on her watch, given her rhetoric directed at the previous government, Finance Minister Nicola Willis said she would not “categorise anything the government is doing as a fiscal cliff”.

He said that in the “vast majority of cases” permanent funding for four years would be allocated in the budget on May 30.

On Monday, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon told RNZ that all budget programs would be fully funded over four years.

“What we are focused on is delivering a budget at the end of May where we are very transparent and very honest about our investment, so that there is certainty that the programs that we support are fully funded,” Luxon said. .

But by Tuesday morning he had backtracked on that claim, telling Morning Report: “There will be the odd incident where we’re actually investing more money into a program that we’re testing or wanting to see the results of before proceeding with it.” further”.

There will be “a handful of things that there might be time-limited funding for, but again we’ll be transparent about that,” he said.

Luxon disagreed that a handful of time-limited funding programs could also be described as a handful of fiscal cliffs — the name his government has given to previous government programs that had not been funded beyond this Budget. anus.

Seymour, who is leading the program review, defends the funding approach the coalition is taking.

He said it was different to Labour, meaning he would continue the program forever but he wouldn’t fund it forever.

Seymour told Checkpoint in April that funding for the program could be cut by up to half.

He said 10,000 lunches were wasted every day and there was no strong evidence that the program, which cost about $325 million a year, improved school attendance or achievement.

Luxon said free school lunches would continue, as National campaigned in last year’s election, but with some changes to make it more efficient.

“We believe in the program. We fund it now, but we want to make sure it has been effective,” he said.

“That’s a good question to ask in a few years, as the program grows and we’ve committed to funding it, to make sure we get a return.”

The Labor Party launched a campaign and petition in March to save the programme.

Leader Chris Hipkins told RNZ the Prime Minister said one thing and did another.