19 November 2014

Council only metaphorically several sandwiches short of a picnic?

Waitrose: sandwiches for 4-6 people = £18
Now Mr Mustard isn't the only person to think that the council's One Barnet* decisions have been taken by people who are one sandwich short of a picnic (the very idea that you can outsource almost everything and all your problems will go away and you will save money is patently absurd as is voting for 2,000 page contracts that you haven't read) but when it comes to having post council meeting picnics refreshments the horses (no, don't mix up your stories Mr M - Ed) are not spared and a shocking amount is spent on sandwiches even though half of the councillors might have to rush off to other important engagements.

so polite "would it be possible..."
We could save £4,000 a year by not providing sandwiches after full council meetings. After all, what do bloggers do? Well, with a meeting starting at 7pm they probably eat at 6pm and then set off to the Town Hall or, if they have to set off earlier, they buy their own sandwich and eat it on the journey. If they are still hungry after the meeting they go and spend their own money in the noodle bar opposite the Town Hall or decide that a pint of Youngs and a bag of crisps will adequately fill their stomach and adjourn to The Greyhound. If the public can manage then so can councillors. Why are sandwiches provided for full council meetings but not for other committee meetings? (Mr Mustard is pretty sure that they aren't as councillors tumble out of the Town Hall like ferrets over a cliff the minute that meetings end), it isn't logical as they usually all start at 7pm and finish by 10pm.

If sandwiches are absolutely necessary, which they aren't, then Waitrose can supply them at a cost of £18 times 12 for a small mountain of sandwiches (veggie ones are £2 less per tray) = £228. Why on earth is £512 (and 50p) being spent each time?

Mr Mustard consulted a certain "troublesome" café owner, Helen Michael of Cafe Buzz in Finchley, N12 and asked her to quote for sandwich supply. Now of course we haven't seen a list of exactly what is normally on the groaning buffet table but she guessed there would have to be veggie and kosher sandwiches and 63 of at £2.50 a time would be £157.50. Let's suppose that half of the councillors will need two whole rounds of sandwiches and add in some large round cakes made by Helen's fair hand (boy, is she good at baking) and a small delivery charge and we are still only up to £300 (a photo from a councillor of the spread at the next meeting would be nice so that the whole world can see if this is merely a subsistence spread or too lavish) and a local business is supported by the council. It would make up for some of the 30% drop in turnover that removing cash parking meters caused to the businesses of the borough.

More sandwiches for less money. Now why isn't that the council mantra, perhaps because it is the councillors' own stomachs they are thinking of?

Until a photo comes his way, Mr Mustard has had to use his imagination as to what the post full Council meeting buffet room looks like.

Yours frugally, unlike our council

Mr Mustard

p.s. The basic councillor's allowance is £10,597 which would buy 588 trays of Waitrose sandwiches, sufficient for 2,352 to 3,528 councillors. Oink.

* "One Barnet" should be renamed "No Barnet" as soon there won't be anything much left except for overpaid Commissioners.

Update: 19 Nov 14

The concern of the public for the health and wellbeing of the bloggers is heartening. I have had the star rating of the noodle bar brought to my attention.

On the other end of the scale Cafe Buzz has now been awarded 5 stars this very week.

Update: 20 November 14

As ever, Jack Cohen, our one and only liberal democrat councillor, who isn't in public service to line his pockets but to serve the public and consequently Mr Mustard would happily buy him a slap up dinner after every full council meeting (but Jack won't accept even a tea or coffee if he pops in for a chat having spied an activist or two in Cafe Buzz, as often happens) is on the money

Still, Richard's answer is inadequate as it doesn't inform Rebecca, and us, of the number of sandwiches provided, as she asked. The libraries budget is being cut by a huge amount but the councillors' catering budget not by a penny?
Mr Mustard has also learnt of other sandwiches It isn't clear if the media sandwiches (bloggers are new media but the council certainly won't be feeding us and Mr Mustard would want to send any fish paste sandwiches off for analysis before eating them, or at the very least have Miss Marple by his side) and there are sandwiches for Officers (staff) as well. If any London wide media are reading, why not send a Freedom of Information request to every London council to see what they spend after, or before, full council meetings.

Never mind the fine detail. The question is one of principle. Should councillors get free scoff after a 3 hour meeting?

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