This takes this biscuit: cuts start to hit Town Hall tea breaks

The Osborne-Balls austerity consensus is biting, and biting hard where it really matters: councillors’ hob nobs.

fondant fanciesAngry tweets have been sent from the Town Hall to complain about the lack of sandwiches at recent council meetings. Some outraged councillors cannot remember the last time they saw a jammy dodger in the Mayor’s Parlour.

And now an email has thumped into the Inside Croydon inbox from the fourth floor of Fisher’s Folly. Croydon Council may be able to afford a £144million council head office, but it’s run out of money to pay for fondant fancies.

Under the heading, “Refreshments at Council meetings”, a council official from a department called “Democratic Services and Scrutiny” writes: “You will be aware that the Council has been reviewing all areas of expenditure including refreshments at Council meetings. A decision has been taken that from now on food will no longer be provided at Council meetings.”

The real bombshell comes in the next sentence: “For this purpose food includes biscuits.”

This is all very worrying. You might think that an enterprising and entrepreneurial council official, someone like council CEO Nathan Elvery, could find some local business to “sponsor” the Town Hall biscuit barrel. Westfield, perhaps – after all, it seems Westfield has managed to get the council to buy up most of central Croydon for them.

The official email continues: “You are respectfully requested to make your own provision for food to meet any medical or other requirements which you may have.” There have been suggestions that Councillor Wayne Trakas-Lawlor has taken to bringing Yorkie bars with him to meetings to stave off impending starvation through the over-long sessions.

“Tea, coffee and water will continue to be provided for those meetings where they have been provided. Please note that all drinks (including water) incur a charge from our provider. Water is free only if provided at the same time as tea and coffee.” Demonstrating that outsourcing creates such wonderful cost-cutting opportunities.

For the record, last year Croydon Council spent £1.5 million on “councillors’ allowances”, and it appointed someone to a job with a salary of £180,000 without that post ever being advertised. That’s a lot of Jaffa cakes.

Tough times on Katharine Street, clearly.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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6 Responses to This takes this biscuit: cuts start to hit Town Hall tea breaks

  1. Ho, ho, ho!

    But seriously: I don’t object to offering councillors a few biscuits with their tea and coffee; or even a round or two of sandwiches before an evening meeting, when otherwise employable ones have come straight from the day job.

    I do object to paying these people a minimum of £11,000 a year in so-called expenses, just for turning up at a few Town Hall meetings or chatting to constituents who attend ward surgeries.

    • David , I don’t object to the £11,000 a year as the councillors don’t just come to 11 meetings a year. Councillors also have to reply to all correspondence and attend to case work on behalf of their ward residents.

      On Saturdays they have surgeries and most of them do spend a lot of time.

      Though I am a Tory, I think Cllr Sean Fitzsimons (Addiscombe) is a fantastic councillor except for his support for 20Mph. A resident’s complain which I referred to Cllr Sean was dealt with immediately. I have seen Sean walking around in Addiscombe and there are councillors who don’t even know the roads in their ward.

      What I object to is the £43,000 part time income for cabinet members and the £53,000 part time income for the leader.

      I do appreciate that our Mayor has taken 1 year time off work to attend Mayoral duties. This has obviously reduced the household income for a family with young children.

  2. Peter Rogers says:

    I’m distraught by this news, surely there’s a fund I can pay into to save these poor wretched souls from going hungry for a couple of hours every now and again. What? There is? And it’s called council tax? But surely that’s there to provide them with ‘allowances’?

  3. mraemiller says:

    If pubs and restaurants have to offer free water surely it’s rather extreme parsimony for the council to charge for it?

    French fancies. Yum.

    • I Geary says:

      To Mr AE Miller, I read the article as saying it’s not the Council charging attendees for water, but the Council’s catering provider charging the Council for providing water (ie trolley, jug, tray of glasses, then taking them away and washing them up afterwards) unless other beverages are being purchased.

      It will be presumably charged to the Council’s budget for such meetings.

      The alternative would just be getting committee staff to just get there earlier/ stay a bit later and do this in their “paid” time, whilst of course still keeping on top of all the admin work needed.

      Perhaps meeting attendees could have a whip – Sam99 on Surrey Street sell a varied range of sugary biscuits, all for 99p.

      Sm

      • mraemiller says:

        “I read the article as saying it’s not the Council charging attendees for water, but the Council’s catering provider charging the Council for providing water (ie trolley, jug, tray of glasses, then taking them away and washing them up afterwards) unless other beverages are being purchased.”

        How tight can you get. If a pub landlord was to say you can have free water but must provide your own glass the Council and the Standard would throw a fit. I know it’s not part of the catering industry the council but there are health reasons for providing free water. Paper cups? I doubt a large number of people are searching out free water to take the piss…

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