Labour wants to stop spending money on food and drink for county councillors

Labour councillors have challenged West Sussex County Council to stop spending money on refreshments for meetings and donate it to charity instead.

Today (Monday June 28), members of the governance committee are due to discuss how to save money on the food and drink provided to councillors during meetings.

But Caroline Baxter (Worthing East) – who is a member of the committee – thought the council should go further.

She said: “Charities across the county are working hard to feed local hungry children.

County Hall Chichester. Pic S Robards SR2105051 SUS-210505-160522001

“If members care that much about saving money and helping feed hungry children in West Sussex, perhaps the annual budget could be donated to charities in West Sussex and councillors could donate the odd lunchtime fast or bring a packed lunch in solidarity?”

The committee is expected to recommend that sandwich lunches be provided on full council days and during some other long meetings and that councillors get their hot drinks from County Hall’s three coffee machines.

Labour leader Chris Oxlade (Bewbush & Ifield West) added: “Free food and refreshments for members is not supported by Labour councillors at West Sussex County Council

“We shouldn’t even be contemplating giving councillors free tea, coffee or food when county council employees and workers across West Sussex have to cover the cost of food and drink out of their own pocket.

“If councillors want it they can pay for it out of their own pocket.”

Another issue on Labour’s radar was the proposal to downgrade County Local Committee (CLC) meetings into ‘talk with us’ online forums.

This issue will also be discussed by the governance committee.

The CLC meetings gave members of the public the chance to question their councillors – but a report to the committee showed that attendance ranged from more than 50 to fewer than ten, depending on what issues were on the agenda.

Much of the CLCs’ decision-making powers have been lost, with only Traffic Regulation Orders left to explore.

But the recommendation now is for those to be decided by the cabinet member, in consultation with local members – essentially removing the public from the process.

Beccy Cooper (Worthing West) added: “Traffic Regulation Orders are an important part of local ownership of the road system.

“Sending decisions back to the cabinet member loses that local decision-making connection that communities have with their own county councillors.

“Enabling and empowering our communities is a key part of engaging with communities, and removing decision-making responsibilities is a backwards step in our partnership approach to the people we serve.”

If the CLCs are dropped, it will save the council just over £34,000 – one democratic services post.

The governance meeting will start at 2.15pm and will be webcast.

The final decision on both matters will be made at a meeting of the full council.