Friday, 27 July 2012

Council Teas

It was disappointing to note that one of the Labour group decided to attempt to make mischief on this issue, particularly as the coverage in the Echo contributed to the concerns expressed by many members of the public. Council teas were traditionally provided to members, senior officers and the media before the major council and scrutiny meetings. This gave members the opportunity to discuss the coming business in a less formal and confrontational manner and also addressed the problem faced by members who work full time and would come straight to the Civic Centre from work with no opportunity to eat first before participating in a potentially lengthy meeting starting at 6.30 and often continuing until 10pm or beyond. It was the Conservative administration which scrapped the teas, not because it resulted in a significant saving in the context of the overall council budget, but because it gave an outward message at a time of economic hardship. The change has not been wholly successful as now members tend to arrive a few minutes before the meetings with no time for discussion and for those who come straight from work there are no food outlets in the Civic Centre or immediate vicinity. Accordingly the Chief Executive with the agreement of all 4 group leaders decided to offer a tea for the first meeting of the year to judge the potential demand. It was always anticipated by the Leaders that members would make a voluntary donation to cover the cost which is what happened. The reason for the trial is that the numbers need to reach a certain level before the provision of catering is economically viable. There is little point in having these leader agreements if members of the groups do not support them or at least flag up potential disagreement in advance. The result of the fur-ore was a low take up but for what it is worth I remain of the view that food should be provided at the Civic Centre before these meetings but on the basis that it is charged to those who take it up at cost.

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