Pay for your own tea and coffee, Broadland councillors told

Conservative councillors have been urged to ditch taxpayer-funded tea and coffee from their private party meetings.

The refreshment row has erupted at Broadland District Council after it emerged jugs of hot drinks were provided instead of councillors using vending machines.

Opposition Liberal Democrats say despite the small cost of the service, estimated to be �180 a year, the principle should be to make savings at every possible opportunity.

And they have called on the ruling Tories to stop using taxpayers' cash to subsidise refreshments for their group meetings.

These meetings are not held in public and are organised for the benefit of political parties to discuss items of interest.

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Broadland officials say a pot of coffee costs �3.30 and a pot of hot water �1.95.

They added four jugs of coffee and one of hot water are supplied for every Tory gathering, with 12 meetings held throughout the year.

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This amounts to �15.15 per meeting or �181.80 a year.

Nich Starling, opposition Lib Dem group leader, said he believed the council should be making every possible saving, no matter how small.

He said: 'I was amazed to find it's allowed and people or political groups expect them to make tea or coffee as they can't find ways to the drinks machine.'

A motion to full council last week called on the authority, which manages an ongoing deficit of �1m, to 'restate its commitment to achieving all possible savings in council budgets'.

It added no amount of money should be excluded from consideration 'due to a failure to challenge established ways or organisational paralysis'.

The motion was defeated, with the Conservatives strongly rejecting any suggestion they were not looking at all possible savings.

Stuart Clancy, Conservative economic development portfolio holder, said: 'This council is constantly challenging established ways and constantly trying to break organisational paralysis.

'We are constantly reviewing procedures and practices with one single-minded aim to give taxpayers of Broadland excellent value for money.'

Bill Couzens, the sole Labour member of the council, questioned why Broadland's council offices in Thorpe St Andrew could be used for political group meetings.

The Sprowston Central member said: 'If money is the issue and we are trying to save it I wonder why political parties are able to use the facilities here for free. It should not be the tea and coffee paid, for but the room.'

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