Council officers have been told to tone down the letters they send to parents over school meal debts again.

Members of the communities scrutiny committee meeting discussed council plans to make their communications less threatening.

Last year the council hit the headlines when a letter was sent to a parent who had racked up a £13 debt for school meals.

The letter warned her that unless she paid up or started providing packed lunches for her child she would be reported to social services.

Denbighshire Council subsequently apologised for the gaffe but at Christmas parents in Denbigh were outraged to have letters sent to them telling them that unless they cleared their debts their children would not get Christmas meals.

Again the council apologised.

Since then officers have come up with a new policy to take the sting out of dealing with parents who had fallen behind on their payments.

These changes will include a requirement for all pupils to pay in advance for school so there will be no debt.

Staff will also be asked to ensure that support is provided for families so that no child is deprived of their school meal.

But councillors who were shown a draft template for the letter that would be sent out in such circumstances were still critical.

At the meeting they asked officers to take further steps to tone down the letter.

Upper Denbigh and Henllan, county councillor, Glenn Swingler, said: “Here we are with this new letter that will be sent out to parents which I find almost as intimidating as the previous one. We have in bold ‘please pay this amount’ all in capital and underlined. It’s how we are doing this in bold type and underlining parts of the letter.

“Perhaps if you started the letter with something like we understand you may be going through some financial issues please contact the school and advice on what they can do.

“Rather than this pay now or else attitude. I don’t think we have improved this letter at all.”

Officers agreed to redraft the letter before they start to use it.

Cllr Huw Hilditch-Roberts, the cabinet member for education, said: “As a local authority we recognised the policy was outdated and needed to be made relevant to the modern world. We worked across the council with members, with schools and education to ensure we go the best possible outcome. And we made sure that children will be well nourished an be able to enjoy their education.”