Sunderland City Council slammed for spending £5,000 on free food for councillors

Liberal Democrat councillor Niall Hodson.
Liberal Democrat councillor Niall Hodson.
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A councillor has hit out at civic chiefs on Wearside for spending almost £5,000 a year on buffet food for councillors following meetings.

Niall Hodson, a Lib Dem councillor for Millfield and Thornholme is urging Sunderland Council to stop providing food and drinks for councillors following council meetings.

Coun Mel Speding.

Coun Mel Speding.

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.

Coun Hodson says does not eat or drink of any of the refreshments provided and never has during his time as an elected member but has been accused of “rank hypocrisy” by Councillor Mel Speding of the ruling Labour group.

“If Sunderland Council has a spare £5,000 to spend on food, it should give meals to homeless people or a local food bank.”

Coun Niall Hodson

“After my first full council meeting in June I was shocked to see that councillors all went to the Civic Centre canteen for a buffet meal,” said Coun Hodson.

“After asking about how much this costs, I was appalled to find that the council are spending around £5,000 a year giving councillors a free meal.

“This is outrageous.

“In any other job people bring their own food to work – they don’t expect their employer to provide an all-you-can-eat buffet just because they happen to have an evening meeting once a month.

Sunderland Civic Centre

Sunderland Civic Centre

“Councillors are more than capable of bringing a packed lunch, or making their tea when they get home from council meetings.

“At a time when the Council is cutting vital services, it is more important than ever that ruling Labour councillors stop wasteful spending like this and show that they are willing to share the burden of cuts.

“If Sunderland Council has a spare £5,000 to spend on food, it should give meals to homeless people or a local food bank.”

In response to Coun Hodson’s comments, Coun Speding, who is the council’s cabinet secretary, said: “Given how I understand that Coun Hodson, his predecessors and his present cohorts have attended and been observed at civic functions, receptions and meetings, his comments once again smack of typical rank Lib Dem hypocrisy.”