Free lunch for councillors is cancelled due to ‘light agenda’

The City of Edinburgh Council Headquarters in East Market Street, Edinburgh
The City of Edinburgh Council Headquarters in East Market Street, Edinburgh
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EDINBURGH’S Labour-SNP coalition has been accused of running out of work to do after it cancelled the free lunch at tomorrow’s full council meeting.

Councillors can usually tuck into curry, macaroni or a steak pie followed by rhubarb crumble or trifle to keep them going at the monthly meetings which deal with the most important and controversial issues facing the Capital.

Edinburgh City Chambers. Picture; Steven Scott Taylor

Edinburgh City Chambers. Picture; Steven Scott Taylor

But members have been informed in an email that due to a “very light” agenda, lunch has been cancelled.

The meeting starts at 10am, and Tory councillor Dominic Heslop said: “Looking at the agenda, we’ll certainly be finished before 12.”

The council will come to the end of its term at the local elections in May, but after tomorrow there are still three more full council meetings scheduled before that.

Cllr Heslop said: “Cancelling the council lunch is a sign that basically it has run out of business.

“It shows you this council simply does not have enough work to do. We are looking at the fag-end of the coalition.”

And he said there had been an increasing number of early finishes for full council meetings in recent months.

“It’s getting more and more common,” he said. “The ludicrous thing is sometimes the council meeting can finish at 11.30am so people are sitting on their hands waiting until 
12 to have an early lunch.

“It shows you this council simply does not have enough work to do.

“Some of the longer-serving councillors will tell you the lunch was necessary when the meetings went on until 7pm or 8pm. But when they can be over by 11.30am can it really be justified? There was a time when there were three-course lunches, waiter service, wine and port and so on.”

Now on full council days, councillors are offered a free buffet with staff to serve up.

Cllr Heslop said: “It’s usually a curry or something vegetarian like macaroni, or you can have a steak pie and a salad – and orange or apple juice. And there’s a pudding as well – perhaps rhubarb crumble or a trifle.”

On other days, councillors have to pay for lunch. “You can get soup and a roll but you have to go to the servery to get that and it costs a couple of quid,” he said.

Council leader Andrew Burns said tomorrow’s meeting had originally been scheduled as the council’s budget meeting, when the spending plans for 2017-18 would be debated, possibly at some length. But delays in budget announcements at Westminster and then Holyrood forced the council to postpone its budget until the February meeting.

He said: “That has partly led to there being a very light agenda for tomorrow’s meeting, and myself and the deputy leader felt it was appropriate to cancel the lunch because that does obviously have a cost attached to it.”

And he denied the coalition was running out of work to do. “On the contrary,” he said. “There is a huge agenda still being pursued, including the budget, the City Region Deal and the City Vision.

“There will always be some council meetings which end up being shorter than others.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com