Parents on Anglesey owe the council up to £50,000 for school dinners.

While the authority says the debt is not huge compared to the amount of meals it serves every day – around four thousand – it is chasing the money up.

But the amount parents are arrears to Anglesey council is dwarfed by that owed to neighbouring Gwynedd, who last year put the figure it was due at around £136,000.

Until now Anglesey council was unable to provide a total accurate arrears position due to the fact that there are two systems in operation, with some schools operating on a cashless basis.

Marc Jones, the council’s finance officer, said: “Some work has been undertaken to look at what the position was by the end of the Easter term, and the total outstanding was £48,084, of which £38,046 was on the schools registers which means they are still being dealt with by the schools,” said Marc Jones.

“The average balance per school was £906 and the highest balance was £6,978. In addition there are 89 invoices outstanding where the debt has been transferred from the school to the central income team, and we’ve raised invoices for those debts amounting to £10,037.

“Action is being taken to recover those debts, but we compare similarly to other authorities.”

But with schools set to transfer to the new cashless system over the summer term, the expectation is that the new system will be operational across all schools from September.

“The new system will see parents pay for the meals before children receive them, meaning that the arrears won’t build up in the same way as what happens now,” he added.

“I can’t say that I’m happy with the level of debt as it stands, as it represents a loss in income for the authority, but you must remember how much school meal money we need to collect every year.

“If we’re providing between three and four thousand paid for meals every day, it means hundreds of thousands a year so put into context that historical figure is not that great for what is quite a difficult debt to chase up.

“We should also remember that many of the families struggling to pay are those who are just about managing who are within a whisker of qualifying for free school meals and may also have other debts owed to us such as rent or council tax.”