Tax payers still footing bill for lunch

FREE lunches may be a thing of the past at Endeavour House, but taxpayers could still end up footing the bill for some members' meals before their regular meetings.

FREE lunches may be a thing of the past at Endeavour House, but taxpayers could still end up footing the bill for some members' meals before their regular meetings.

County councillors have been told they will have to buy meals from the staff restaurant before meetings, but they are entitled to claim meal allowance of £8.13 if they do buy themselves lunch.

The rules of expenses say that if a councillor is away from home for four hours or more (including travel to and from a meeting) and that includes any time between noon and 2pm then they are entitled to claim a lunch allowance.

Council meetings start at 2pm, so councillors would have to leave home before that time, and usually last two to three hours.

That means all those except a few who live very near Endeavour House would be entitled to claim the allowance.

The news comes after The Evening Star revealed that the County Council is axing lunches during internal meetings after it was found that £144,000 a year was being spent on biscuits, sandwiches and crisps.

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Many councillors are expected not to claim the allowance, but others are expected to lodge claims for money they are entitled to.

Ipswich Conservative councillor Russell Harsant said: “I don't claim meal or travelling allowances, I never have done in my nine years on the council.

“There have been e-mails flying around the group saying it would be best if we did not claim for these lunches - but there cannot be an instruction. Councillors are entitled to the money if they want to claim.”

Council leader Jeremy Pembroke said all Tory members had agreed not to claim expenses for lunches before full meetings.

Liberal Democrat deputy group leader Andrew Cann said members of his group had decided not to claim for lunches before full council meetings.

He said: “We shall eat in the staff restaurant and pay for what we have, just like council officers.”

But the Labour Group has not given its members any advice. Group deputy leader Kevan Lim said: “We have more important things to discuss. It might be mentioned at our group meeting before the meeting itself, but it isn't a major issue for us.”

A spokesman for the council said even if every councillor did claim their allowance, it would be cheaper than providing a free meal.

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