‘Why on earth should West Sussex county councillors have a free lunch?’

Providing free lunches for West Sussex county councillors attending meetings has been questioned again by Labour members.

Left: the WSCC provided food. Right: Labour councillors enjoy their own picnic lunches
Left: the WSCC provided food. Right: Labour councillors enjoy their own picnic lunches

The issue was discussed in the summer due to the plan to close the restaurant at the County Hall campus as part of budget savings.

The county council’s governance committee resolved that sandwich lunches would be provided on full council meeting days as well as for other meetings when agreed by the head of democratic services in consultation with the meeting’s chairman.

With many county councillors returning to the chamber for the first time since the pandemic began today (Friday October 22), the Labour group suggested that while new members had already forced the issue regarding the provision of free meals councillors used to enjoy during full council meetings, they had not yet persuaded Conservative councillors to entirely remove the free catering option.

Members were invited to order from a selection of sandwiches, ranging from ham & cheese to smoked salmon and cream cheese, crisps and a piece of fruit.

Labour group members opted instead to bring their own packed lunches.

They pointed out that the only other West Sussex residents in receipt of free food are eligible school children who receive a £15-20 supermarket voucher a week in school holidays, depending on benefits level.

Beccy Cooper, Labour county councillor for Worthing West, said; “This really is a matter of principle for us. Staff at County Hall don’t get a free lunch, people who just had their Universal Credit cut by 20 per cent don’t have a free lunch, so why on earth should councillors?

“The only West Sussex residents who do get a free lunch are eligible school children and then we had to fight to see them not go hungry through school holidays last year. “It’s worth comparing what councillors are offered and what is provided to school children through the holidays, because it really is shameful and don’t get me started on vulnerable adults who have to rely on food banks.

“As a group, we are totally united in believing it’s just not right to spend resources like this while services are being cut.”