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Almost £18,000 spent on refreshments at meetings of Hart District Council

Hart District Council has spent thousands of pounds on sandwiches, teas and coffees and refreshments for parties in the last five years

Money was spent on alcohol for parties

Hart District Council has spent nearly £18,000 on food and drink at meetings over the past five years, the News & Mail can reveal.

The council, which is responsible for services including rubbish and recycling collections, council tax collection and housing and planning applications, splashed out on £17,877 on its food and drink budget since 2008.

The figure, disclosed in a freedom of information request, includes sandwiches for lunch on training courses – for the public and staff; refreshments at public meetings; the business forum; the council chairman’s civic events; tea and coffee for staff; refreshments for visitors; and a Christmas lunchtime party for staff and councillors.

In 2008-09, Hart spent £5,163 on food and drink, in 2009-10 the figure was reduced to £3,165, in 2010/11 it fell further to £2,362, in 2011/12 it was £2,282 and in 2012/13 it almost doubled to £4,253.

Even though the sum refers to all meetings of the council, not just full council meetings, campaign groups feel that reductions should be made, especially in times of financial hardship.

Robert Oxley, campaign director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Like all councils, Hart District Council has to find savings.

“This huge bill for council grub – it is vital that the reduction seen in the last year is made to stick.

“Ditching, or at the very least reducing, the amount spent on council refreshments is an easy way for the local authority to cut spending without affecting the front line.”

Christine Melson, Hamp-shire spokesman for the campaign group Is It Fair, would like to see the outgoings cut back.

She said: “We have come across this type of thing quite a lot. Councils cannot expect us to pull in our belts if they cannot do the same.

“We are seeing cuts across the county in all sorts of things.

“I do not think they think about it as much as they should and they should cut back on this sort of thing.

“Every time they drink out of a bottle of bottled water, for example, they should think of the taxpayers.”

Hart has saved money in recent years by sharing its CCTV system with Rushmoor Borough Council, sharing its refuse service with Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and by outsourcing services such as IT and HR to Capita.

A breakdown of the figures showed that last December, almost £70 was spent on 20 bottles of mulled wine for the council’s Christmas party and £80 was spent on wine for the chairman’s volunteer event in May.

This year, around £40 was spent on food at the council’s annual general meeting in May – four times more than what was spent at the AGM in 2011.

More than £130 was spent on alcoholic drinks for the shadow parish council dinner in July 2010 and nearly £50 was spent on wine for corporate director interviews in April 2012.

Geoff Bonner, chief executive of the council, said: “Hart spends very little money on refreshments at council meetings and much less, I would guess, than any of our neighbours.

“Our councillors get free tea and coffee at council meetings and at Christmas a glass of wine and a mince pie. That is it.”

 

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