Councillors could be forced to pay for own lunches at Edinburgh City Chambers as cash-strapped council battles budget cuts
The full council lunches cost around £520 per meeting – tallying up around £7,000 a year
Councillors could have to cough up for their own lunches at the City Chambers to set “a good example” as the cash-strapped authority battles with millions of pounds of budget cuts.
Long gone are the days when members of Edinburgh City Council were provided with a silver service lunch, including wine.
Now, councillors and council staff are served lunch when the full council meets, as well as refreshments – at the expense of the taxpayers. A light lunch is also provided to councillors and staff taking part in all-day meetings of the licensing board and the licensing sub-committee.
The full council lunches cost around £520 per meeting – tallying up around £7,000 a year. Liberal Democrats have now called for councillors to pay for their own lunches. A report will be drawn up investigating options “for a simple mechanism which could facilitate councillors contributions to cover the direct costs of the lunches and refreshments provided”.
Liberal Democrat finance spokesperson, Cllr Neil Ross, officially brought forward the proposals at full council.
He said: “Although the cost may not be a lot, it is still perhaps £7,000 a year. When added to the provision of other refreshments, it adds up to a greater sum.
“I fully accept there are sensible business efficiency reasons for continuing to provide lunches and refreshments – both in terms of time management and protection from lobbying interests.
However, I think we need to set a good example to show both city residents and council staff that we are taking our financial position seriously by paying for our lunches and other refreshments.”
Cllr Ross said the motion had led to discussion amongst councillors including a tongue-in-cheek plea to “bring back puddings”.
He added: “The council may be facing cuts to its budget next year in the order of £36m. I don’t think we can, on principle, justify free lunches for councillors, in the financial climate. How can we rail against injustice and demand action on poverty and then claim a free lunch?”
It has also been revealed that political groups tallied up £4,238.92 in internal catering costs in the space of a year. The spend for 2018-19 includes £3,019.80 from the SNP, £1,004.12 from
Labour, £96 from the Conservatives, £64 from the Greens and £55 from the Liberal Democrats.
Conservative Cllr Susan Webber, who revealed the catering expenses, said: “I am as perplexed as many other councillors.
“I can see why other councillors were completely unaware of this spend. I asked for some background out of curiosity and I didn’t know what was going to be unearthed.
“What makes the SNP-Labour administration councillors feel that they alone are entitled to council funded meals and refreshments for their internal meetings?
“The rest of us are quite rightly paying for this ourselves. The Conservatives have a kitty that we all chip into each month.”
The SNP-Labour administration will be reviewing all internal spending.
A council spokesperson said: “Full council meetings can be unpredictable in length and providing catering helps to avoid unnecessary delays. Outside of council meetings, councillors can claim for costs incurred as part of council business and this includes light catering when necessary.”