Free lunches worth £18,000 for Edinburgh councillors back on the table after plans to scrap them stall

Moves to scrap the free lunches and refreshments had begun in November, but have since stalled.

Tuesday, 3rd March 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 3rd March 2020, 12:11 pm
Edinburgh councillors are entitled to a free lunch during full council meetings

There’s an age-old saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch, apart for councillors at Edinburgh City Council, of course.

As it stands, councillors attending full council meetings, which take place around ten times a year, get free food costing the city £550 a time.

In November a motion was put forward by Liberal Democrat finance spokesman Neil Ross to ditch the free food and set a “good example”.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

However, councillors are set to approve a move to retain the status quo after a report found the majority view of all political groups was to keep the lunches and other free refreshments, projected to cost £18,000, the same as the salary for a social care worker.

It is understood the decision could be deferred to a later meeting of the Finance and Resources committee due to negotiations behind the scene.

Conservative group chairman Jason Rust said the council has to make a decision between keeping the free lunches or scrapping them completely, rather than creating a pay-as-you-go system favoured by the Greens.

Cllr Rust said: “As a group we feel that the provision of a basic one-course full council lunch with glass of water or orange allows for collegiality and for the different groups and non-aligned councillors to briefly mix in an informal way, taking away from some of the heat of the debating chamber.

“It is also convenient for elected members where there is a tight timescale. However, we would suggest the easiest course would be to scrap the lunch and for members to make their own arrangements than getting into complex mechanisms and attempts at trying to work out provision which may not save any money.”

Green councillor Gavin Corbett said £12,000 could be saved by scrapping the lunches, adding: “That means if lunch continues to be available at full council meetings, it should only be on a paid-for basis.

“That, after all, is what almost all workplaces do, with workers sorting their own lunches or paying for food in a workplace canteen and clubbing together in a tea kitty.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Neil Ross added: “I am working with other councillors to try to find a sensible consensus that provides value for money for council taxpayers and meets the business needs of council committees.”

A council spokesperson said: “Following a motion to council in November, a report has been produced for consideration by members of the Finance and Resources Committee, addressing how the cost of monthly lunches following council meetings and refreshments are accounted for.”