Last supper for Sunderland councillors’ ‘£10,000’ free meals

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SUNDERLAND city councillors may have had their last supper.

The authority is to look into scrapping the free meals provided to councillors and visitors after every full council meeting.

Independent councillors Colin Wakefild, Sheila Ellis and Derrick Smith tabled a motion calling for the free meals to be dropped, except for the annual meeting at which the new mayor is appointed, in a move they estimate will save at least £10,000.

“We have got a lot of hard-pressed families in Sunderland,” said Coun Ellis.

“I don’t know how we can hold our heads up and look them in the face when we are eating free meals on the rates.”

But the council instead backed an amendment to refer the proposal to its Independent Remuneration Panel, after cabinet secretary Coun Mel Speeding said the move would require a formal change to the authority’s constitution.

Tory councillor Margaret Forbes accused the ruling Labour group of using delaying tactics.

“I think the proposal speaks for itself and hoped the council would pass it through,” she said. “The amendment delays the decision – it does little else.

“Going back years, councillors used to come through from work or elsewhere and if they wanted to eat, they went to the restaurant, they ordered their meal and they paid for it, then they went to council. I don’t see any reason why that should be altered.”

The amendment was “nothing but a delaying motion,” she said. “I am not impressed by it or convinced by it – I am certainly convinced by the original.”

But Coun Ellis said she had no objection to referring the plan to the remuneration panel.

“I am perfectly happy to go along with the amendment but I do think it is important we get something sorted out,” she said.

“I would urge everybody to get this sorted as soon as possible.”

Deputy council leader Harry Trueman promised to do so: “We will put this to the remuneration panel at the earliest possible time,” he said.

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