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No more free food for council chiefs

PUBLISHED: 07:24 25 August 2006 | UPDATED: 11:30 22 October 2010

A £600 daily bill for refreshments and lunches is to be ditched by Suffolk County Council in response to a staff suggestion, officials annou-nced yesterday.

A £600 daily bill for refreshments and lunches is to be ditched by Suffolk County Council in response to a staff suggestion, officials annou-nced yesterday.

Senior politicians and officials at the authority have cut funding to day care, bus services and meals on wheels services as well as shutting Waveney's popular Seagull Theatre since announcing it needed to find £24m of cuts in February.

But until the money-saving idea was put forward by a worker, the council's top brass had continued to enjoy cookies, fruit juice and sandwiches in meetings at a rate of almost £600 for every office day. Bottled water will no longer be supplied either.

Getting rid of the refreshments, which will be replaced by water jugs, will save £12,000 a month or £144,000 a year, enough to keep the Seagull Theatre at Pakefield, near Lowestoft, open for two more years or to reduce the number of redundancies made.

In all, 22 people have lost their jobs as the cash-strapped authority looks for ways to save money - with the move costing about £1m.

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

"It's disgraceful. £144,000 on snacks really wants looking at, but it is in line with councillors' ability to award themselves expenses incre-ases of up to 40pc this year," he said.

"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."

When asked if he was embarrassed by the daily cost of refreshments, council leader Jeremy Pembroke said the administration had stopped supplying lunches as soon as the cost became clear.

"We asked staff to let us know where there was waste and they have done that and I am trying to find out the name of the girl who suggested this so I can personally thank her," he said. "This is exactly the kind of waste we are trying to get rid of and I am delighted that we have been able to do that.

"From now on, where there are working lunches, people will buy a sandwich and bring it back to the meeting," he added. He said other money-saving suggestions were also being looked at.

The savings made by stopping refreshments were revealed as the council announced it is on target to make £23.9m of savings in the 2006/7 financial year. Budget cuts were needed after central government funding for Suffolk fell short of what was needed to achieve a standstill position at the authority.

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