Councillors go without free meal for first time after full Sunderland City Council meeting

The first full meeting of Sunderland City Council without a free meal being served up for councillors has taken place.

Wednesday, 26th June 2019, 5:36 pm
The empty civic centre cafe after the last full meeting of Sunderland City Council

Previously councillors attending full meetings were served buffet meals.

The decision to end the taxpayer-funded food was made after the ruling Labour Group put forward the proposal in May – despite the party having laughed out a similar notion from Liberal Democrat councillors earlier in the year.

The Labour proposal came after the party took a drubbing in the council elections, leading to its leadership being accused of “eating humble pie”.

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Coun Niall Hodson

After the civic centre cafe sat empty at the most recent full council meeting on June 19, the Lib Dems hailed it as a victory.

Lib Dem leader Niall Hodson said he had been “genuinely shocked, angry and appalled” that councillors and their guests were served up an “all-you-can-eat buffet”.

"Thankfully, the council's leadership has finally seen sense and has listened to the outrage from city residents about these taxpayer-funded meals," he said.

Coun Hodson said his group was now setting its sights on ending other “perks” including free Sunderland Empire theatre tickets, as well as reducing councillor expenses and allowances.

Coun Graeme Miller

Council leader Graeme Miller, however, did not take kindly to the Lib Dems remarks and hit out at their opposition to start full council meetings at 4pm instead of 6pm.

Opposition councillors said the earlier time would make it hard for members with jobs to attend, but Coun Miller’s Labour Group said the earlier time would be more “family friendly”.

Coun Miller also panned the Lib Dems over the 2010-2015 Coalition Government’s austerity measures.

“That has led to £300million in cuts to this city’s revenue budget, and what that means to residents, rather than the £10,000 it cost per year roughly, to supply a meal after six or seven full council meetings to staff, guests and councillors,” he said.

Coun Miller said he looked forward to Lib Dem proposals regarding the Empire theatre tickets, which are provided at no cost to council tax payers.

He added that Coun Hodson was already aware the Labour Group will be meeting the Independent Renumeration panel over the summer to review the number and costs of Special Responsibility Allowances available to councillors.