Crumbs! Council axes £400-a-day biscuit bill

SUFFOLK County Council came in for withering criticism today for spending £144,000 a year on biscuits, sandwiches and crisps for internal meetings.Bosses only discovered they were paying out £12,000 a month - the equivalent of £400 a day - on food and drink after a worker made a cost-cutting suggestion to help claw back the £24million shortfall in this year's government funding.

SUFFOLK County Council came in for withering criticism today for spending £144,000 a year on biscuits, sandwiches and crisps for internal meetings.

Bosses only discovered they were paying out £12,000 a month - the equivalent of £400 a day - on food and drink after a worker made a cost-cutting suggestion to help claw back the £24million shortfall in this year's government funding.

The extent of the food bill comes at a time when the council has also been forced to shed 22 posts to slash costs.

The true funding of refreshments emerged after the council looked at the amount ordered by each of the departments which govern their own budget.

Reg Hartles, a spokesman for Protesters Against Council Tax in Suffolk, was disgusted at the amount of public money spent.

The Felixstowe pensioner said: “It's disgraceful. £144,000 on snacks really wants looking at, but it is in line with councillors' ability to award themselves expenses increases of up to 40 per cent this year.

Most Read

“I have been to meetings in my working life and it is sufficient to have just a cup of tea. You don't need to go beyond that. Biscuits are totally unnecessary.”

In addition to rationing food for meetings, the council has also had to shed more that 20 posts, councillors will be told at a cabinet meeting on September 5.

Countering the criticism over the amount spent on refreshments, Francis Thomas, the council's communications' director said: “It is one of those great ideas that you say 'why didn't we think of it earlier'. We haven't had a single complaint back.

“Because we have departments with their own budgets it was not the sort of thing you keep an eye on individually.

“Because of the £24m shortfall we have had in funding this year, it has been decided to look really hard at the things we do and how we do them. I think it's great the staff have got behind us and come up with ideas to save money.

“It would not be unusual to have an employer proved sandwiches for a lunchtime meeting.”

Mr Thomas said the suggestion to cut back on food and drink for meetings was just one of those from the council's Ideas in Action initiative.

The council believes it has made good progress in the first quarter of this financial year in managing its' shrunken budget by pursuing ideas.

It said a high proportion of the planned savings of £23.9m have already been achieved and stressed through careful vacancy management and redeployment, the number of redundancies has been kept to a minimum of 22.

The associated cost of this, including the impact on the pension fund, is around £1m. It is proposed that half of these costs are met from the central County Fund Reserve, with directorates bearing the other costs.

Some budgets continue to be under pressure. For example, there are more children in care (looked after children) that the county has to fund placements for, and there are more people needing help through the older people's and learning disabilities budgets. Action is being taken by services to deal with these challenges.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter