Council chiefs under fire over wine bill

AN OVERHAUL of spending rules has been called for after it emerged taxpayers in west Suffolk were footing the bill for councillors to quaff wine after meetings.

Receptions are held for councillors and officers after each full meeting of Forest Heath District Council.

The wine is funded from a special budget set aside by the council for the chairman, who hosts the post-meeting receptions.

There are five meetings of the full council each year and about 10 bottles of wine are purchased for each meeting.

The council has now been urged to scrap the practice amid concerns it sends out the wrong message to the public, especially at a time when all departments of central and local government are being urged to save cash and show prudence.

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Independent councillor Pat McCloud said he had never been along to one of the post-meeting receptions.

He said: “It is not on. If they want wine I think they should pay for their own wine.

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“I don’t think Joe Public realises what he is paying for.”

He said he could understand the provision of water during meetings but not wine after them.

Current council chairman John McGhee said the actual amount spent on wine was small. He said he aimed to buy bottles for about �3, which means the annual bill would only be about �150.

“I shall continue to invite our own people as it has been going on for all the 11 years I’ve been on the council.

“I’ve usually been the barman for the other chairmen and I shall be continuing that side of it.”

He said the chairman’s receptions were often an important occasion for the authority because it gave councillors and officers a chance to meet and talk after meetings.

“It is something that has carried on and carried on and it is from my allowance .”

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