Victory for Green Group on Essex County Council

23 October 2015

Last orders called on free meals at County Hall - Green manifesto pledges delivered


The Essex County Council Full Council meeting on Tuesday 13th October will consider a report from the Independent Remuneration Panel that has reviewed all councillor allowances and expenses.

The report recommends that “free meals” should be scrapped, except at Full Council meetings (held four times a year). However it is expected that the ruling Tories will end the so called meals “entitlement” all together, something that the Greens have been regularly pressing for since first being elected to the County Council in May 2013. The Greens have consistently said that if a councillor needs a meal at County Hall, he or she should pay for it.

Cllr. James Abbott, Green Group Leader said

“If it is the case that the administration intends to scrap all free meals, going further than the IRP report, then we will welcome and support that recommendation.

The Greens stood at the election in 2013 on a series of manifesto pledges aimed at reform at County Hall. The scrapping of free meals completes the delivery of all our main reform pledges.

Its worth remembering that in 2013, when we first raised these reform issues, our proposals were rejected by the Tories. It was stated by the administration that it would be wrong to end the “free meals” entitlement, which they claimed was part of the allowance scheme. We challenged this and argued that the council had to publish how much each councillor was taking in free meals value – which eventually ECC did agree to.

The administration criticised our call in 2013 for the public to speak at main meetings; they said it would be problematic

We also called for reductions in top councillor allowances, which to their credit the administration voluntarily made for Cabinet posts.

So if the right decision is made at the meeting on the “free meals” it will mean that all 3 main Green manifesto reform pledges will have been delivered:

1) Top councillor allowances have been reduced;
2) The public can now speak at main meetings including at Cabinet and Full Council;
3) The so called “free meals” – actually paid for by the taxpayer on top of already generous allowances – look set to be completely scrapped.

No doubt other parties at the meeting will try to say they were against free meals too. But in reality the records show that the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dem groups all enjoyed taxpayer funded meals after 2013. The Greens have not taken any free meals. In an era when public services budgets are being cut year after year, most residents in Essex viewed with incredulity the fact that councillors were still dining at their expense.”