London Borough of Havering: Universal Infant Free School Meals

Havering London Borough Council is the local authority for the London Borough of Havering in Greater London. The Council provides a range of services to over 200,000 residents living in the borough. Havering Catering Services is one of the Council’s traded services providing meals to over 60 state-maintained schools and academies.

In early 2014, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced a new scheme to provide every child in reception, year 1 and year 2 in state-funded schools with a free school lunch. With a fixed deadline of September that year the Council urgently required a specialist consultant to project manage the implementation, to ensure that all eligible schools in the Borough could meet the requirement. The Council selected CMI to take charge and manage the project following their previous experience of working in the commercial catering sector.

To understand the size and scale of the task, CMI worked with the catering management team to model the predicted additional take up of meals to identify a target meals per day for every school kitchen. Area managers were quickly galvanised to visit each school site and review with kitchen staff the impact in terms of space, equipment and additional staff needed to fulfil the task. This information culminated in a detailed business case which was given immediate approval and secured the necessary funding.

Given that every council in the country would be investing in kitchen equipment to meet the challenge of the fixed deadline CMI realised that early procurement of a catering equipment partner was key to the success of this project. Working with the Client’s procurement team, CMI prepared a kitchen equipment specification and secured a partner through a pre-existing procurement framework which reduced the overall timeframe.

The project was established with three key workstreams.

  1. Equipment upgrades;
  2. Kitchen refurbishment;
  3. Staff recruitment.

CMI also identified that the Council was running capital projects with the Department for Education to increase the number of school places in the Borough. With this additional pressure on the school kitchens CMI attended the school place board and presented the need for joined up thinking across capital projects and catering in schools. This led to additional capital investment in school kitchens to ensure they were fit for purpose and able to meet demand across the board.

The project was delivered in time for the September school year and within the approved budget. The approach used helped to build a strong and lasting relationship between the catering team and the schools and set the foundation for follow-on projects. 

London Borough of Havering were one of a handful of local authorities in England that were able to offer a hot school meal to every eligible pupil in the borough.


Mary Phillips, Assistant Director at London Borough of Havering said

“CMI were superb. Highly skilled, they’ve been the very best external consultants we’ve ever worked with”.

Skills Used

Business Analyst





Stakeholder Management