OXFORDSHIRE County Council has warned it may face paying out £9m to cover the cost of free school meals.

Last September, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg pledged that every child in reception and Year 1 and 2 in state-funded schools would receive a free hot lunch.

But the council revealed yesterday it has been awarded just £1.1m for the universal free school meals for infants.

The authority believes the overall cost of the scheme, including helping improve kitchen facilities and equipment in the schools, would be about £10m.

County council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “The minute this announcement was made, councils across the country strongly suspected that they would not receive the full funding.

“Sadly we look like being proved right. This comes on top of the £64m savings we are having to make in our day-to-day revenue budgets.

“If the Deputy Prime Minister makes pledges like this relating to locally delivered services, they need to make sure they are properly funded.

“We have let central Government know of our unhappiness as regards this situation and we will continue to do so.”

Bayards Hill Primary School headteacher Keith Ponsford said: “With the extra demand there will be for meals we will have to re-organise how we serve the meals and organise lunchtime because it is important that it is a smooth process for the pupils.

“We don’t want children to be pushed through because there isn’t enough space. Our canteen is already large, but it could need to be refurbished.”