A KEY report into the school meals fiasco will go before Dorset County Council today.

The audit and scrutiny committee will meet to discuss the problems experienced with school meals provider Chartwells.

A report into the situation says all schools affected by the situation will receive a share of a £450,000 compensation package.

Under the terms of the contract, Chartwells is expected to provide locally-produced, nutritious meals to a total of 107 schools across Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset.

But a fire in its new kitchen hub at Ferndown in June led to huge problems at the start of term, with some schools not receiving any lunches at all and others receiving partial, incorrect or poor quality meals.

The report officially confirms that the council did know about the fire back in June – as revealed by the Daily Echo last month.

When the problems with school meals first occurred, Cllr Toni Coombs, who is cabinet member for both education and communications in the Conservative administration, initially said Chartwells hadn’t informed the council about the fire until the start of term.

This latest report reveals there was regular contact between the council’s contract manager and Chartwells project manager throughout the summer but that Chartwells was confident it could deliver on the contract.

The report details the chaos that surrounded the first few days of term with school head teachers reporting problems with meals not turning up or turning up very late and even council staff unable to get hold of Chartwells.

Some of the problems were down to a lack of drivers and operational staff, the report states. “Assumptions had been made by the contractor that staff would continue after the summer break,” it says.

“Many did not return which had a major impact on the ability to process and complete orders and the logistics of delivering to the schools.”

Information provided by Chartwells at meetings on September 11 and October 2 will also be considered at the scrutiny panel. The first of these states that with hindsight, the temporary kitchen provided at Bovington was “never up to the job” and that “the Operations team was overwhelmed and didn’t shout soon enough.”

It adds: “The team are devastated by what has happened.”