Leeds, Wakefield and Kirklees: Money spent on council refreshments revealed EXCLUSIVE

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Three councils in West Yorkshire spent almost £9,000 on refreshments at full council meetings last year, the YEP can reveal.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request submitted by the YEP shows that Leeds City Council spent £7,339 on coffee, tea and sandwiches at meetings of all 99 councillors last year.

That amounts to £8.23 a head based on nine meetings, although a council spokeswoman said officers and members of the public were also catered for.

In Wakefield, the total spent on refreshments in 2011 was £1,050, while for Kirklees Council, the figure was £575.30.

As reported previously in the YEP, Leeds City Council swapped in-house caterers for Leeds-based hospitality firm Dine three years ago, resulting in a price increase from £3,804 in 2008 to £7,508 in 2009.

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A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said: “The meetings begin at 1.30pm in the afternoon, and at their earliest will finish at 7.30pm, which is a long stretch of time. It is for this reason we provide refreshments for the 20 minute break at 5pm.

“There has been a small reduction to the cost since 2009, and we will continue to look at options to keep costs down.”

Wakefield Council spent £1,050 on Fairtrade tea and coffee at 12 council meetings last year, with an extra £684 spent on hot drinks and Fairtrade fruit at 19 cabinet meetings.

That adds up to approximately £1.39 a head at council meetings, based on all 63 councillors attending, and £5.14 a head at cabinet meetings, based on all seven members attending.

In 2010, the cost of refreshments at council meetings was £1,333.50, with a spokeswoman attributing the drop to the decision to stop providing biscuits.

She added: “The council feels it only reasonable to provide basic refreshments to its members attending meetings and there are no plans at this stage to cease this practise.”

In Kirklees, the total amount spent was £575.30, which can be broken down into £398.50 for the eight full council meetings and £176.80 for all-party briefings in nearby rooms.

Based on the full council meetings providing refreshments for 74 people, including all 69 councillors, the cost per head is around 67p.

All meetings offered tea and coffee, with several providing biscuits, iced water with sliced orange and lemon and chilled orange juice.

In October last year, the cost of tea and coffee rose from £7.50 per flask for 10 people to £10.95 per flask.

A Kirklees Council spokeswoman said: “The refreshments are provided as it is felt that it is reasonable for a hot drink to be provided at meetings that last a significant period of time.

“We are not aware that councillors wish to reduce this basic provision.”

Sarah Champion MP

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