A CONTRACT award for an online payment and cashless catering system in Renfrewshire schools has been approved by councillors.

The potential 10-year deal with Parent Pay – which could prove to be worth more than £1 million – was given the green light by the finance, resources and customer services policy board on Thursday.

A break clause will form part of the agreement, which Renfrewshire Council reserves the right to exercise after a contract review.

A report, which was considered by the board, said: “The council has an ongoing requirement for an experienced service provider to provide a single integrated online payments and cashless catering solution, which includes school fund management to support the council’s objective to eliminate cash from all schools.

“This system will also support the council’s processes, which have recently been implemented across all schools providing an audit trail, better control and visibility of debt, and flexibility, and provide real-time reporting and a consistent experience for parents/guardians and council staff.”

Payment for school meals in the local authority are currently handled through Parent Pay, a report to the recent Fairer Renfrewshire sub-committee explained.

The document confirmed more than £47,000 in school meal debt was to be written off by the council in a bid to ease pressure on struggling families.

However, an additional £44,853.87 of debt had been accrued on Parent Pay by the October break. It has not yet been invoiced or passed on to a recovery stage.

At the sub-committee itself, which was held on Wednesday, November 15, Alastair MacArthur, director of finance and resources, confirmed a further write-off could be on the cards in the future.

He said: “The £47,500 that has been written off, that is debt that has been passed from the Parent Pay system into the council’s corporate debt management processes and that has been written off.

“Within the Parent Pay system itself, there are moving balances every single day within that as school meals are used and as payments are made by families. That moves constantly.

“I have noted within the report that as at just prior to the October school break there was a debt balance within the Parent Pay system of approaching £45,000. That will move on a daily basis.

“I would anticipate that some of that debt potentially may require a further write-off.”

Reflecting on the topic at Thursday’s finance board meeting, Councillor Graeme Clark, a Labour representative for Paisley Northeast and Ralston, said: “I’m assured by the officers that Parent Pay, as a system in itself, is not responsible for the recent £90,000 plus of school meal debt, although I remain to be convinced.

“I’m therefore gratified to know that there’s a three-year and five-year opt out in this contract, which is a 10-year contract, which we’ll agree today.”