Echo readers have dished out passionate views after civic chiefs were blasted for splashing out almost £5,000 a year to feed councillors - as they face up to making millions of pounds worth of cuts.
Niall Hodson, Liberal Democrat councillor, for Millfield and Thornholme has served up a stinging rebuke to Sunderland City Council over free food and drink being supplied to decision-makers.
Figures obtained by his party revealed that the authority pays for external caterers to come into the Civic Centre to provide the food for elected representatives after the regular full council meetings of all 75 city councillors.
Each meal costs the taxpayer on average £546 and there are nine full council meetings each year.
The council has this year warned it faces cuts of £110million by 2020, which follows on from the £207million cuts from its budget during the six years leading up to last autumn.
Echo readers have been given plenty of food for thought.
It’s a disgraceful waste of money.Clive Lee
Clive Lee called for an end to council ‘freebies’ on the Echo’s Facebook page, writing; “It’s a disgraceful waste of money. It is time all of this freebies for councillors was stopped.”
Mary Hepton also found the news hard to stomach, adding: “Is this what they charge us extra for brown bins for so they can stuff their faces? Where is their austerity?”
Heather Fagan also weighed in: “In Peterlee The North East Party have now put a stop to councillors getting free drinks and food at tax payers expense, time some other councils did the same.”
John Hunter was also up in arms, stating: “It’s an absolute joke. Cemetries in decline despite families paying hundreds to have their loved ones laid to rest, streets are rubbish strewn and overun with weeds. A waste of our money.”
But many came out in councillors’ rights to be nourished after serving their community.
Simon Foster wrote: “In any other job meetings and training food is provided, why should council be any different, people just need something to winge about for the sake of it.”
He was backed up by Marie Nixon, who wrote; “I think we need to tread carefully before we become outraged by this sort of thing as it’s the whittling away of this type of support that makes it difficult for people of all classes and background to take a proactive part in democracy. The rates for all of these things are reviewed by an independent body - and I do believe we should pay people for the work they do.
Graeme Wharton stated: “It works out about 0.03p per person in Sunderland - what are you going to spend that on?
Robert Francis responded: “In a budget of several million, you are discussing £500 a week to feed several councillors, late at night after a long meeting.”