Labour is ‘prepared to swallow’ its ‘humble pie’ following a battering at local elections.
Yesterday (Monday, May 13) Sunderland City Council’s ruling party revealed it would consider binning a perk offering free meals for councillors after meetings.
It is also looking at scaling back allowances payments.
The move came just months after the same proposal was put forward by the opposition Liberal Democrat group.
But on that occasion it was rejected after some Labour members dismissed the plans as ‘twaddle’.
“You may call it humble pie,” said council leader Graeme Miller, “and we’re prepared to swallow that if it’s what our residents want.
“We are reacting proactively and positively to what the people of Sunderland are saying to us and removing the significant cost of delivering meals.
“We are under no illusions that there is a considerable amount of work to be done to win back the support of some residents of this city, who spoke loudly and clearly at the polls last week – but we refuse to shy away from the task at hand and we realise that we must make the priorities of the people our own priorities.”
The new approach from Labour comes after what Coun Miller called at the time a ‘terrible’ night for his party at local elections on Thursday, May 2.
Although Labour remained the largest single party in the council chamber, its majority was cut from 60 of the council’s 75 seats, to 51.
Existing opposition the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives both made gains, while the Green Party and UKIP also scored their first ever victories in the city’s elections.
After results were announced, Coun Miller said he thought national concerns over Brexit had distracted from local campaigning.
He added: “We have a renewed vision and a new manifesto to make clear our priorities and we are ready to make changes.
“If people give us a message, we will listen to it and if that means speeding up and bringing forward policies and projects that had been on the agenda for later in the year, then we will do that.”
News of the proposal to scrap free meals was welcomed by opposition groups, with newly elected Lib Dem councillor Heather Fagan calling the current policy ‘shameless’.
A separate proposal also announced yesterday, to cut allowances to senior councillors, was also hailed by Sunderland’s Conservative leader Robert Oliver, who have previously called for the payments to be overhauled.James Harrison
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service