£13,500 — THAT’S how much the council has spent on feeding its councillors in the last five years.

Splashing out on biscuits, drinks, sandwiches and other refreshments for elected members and guests set Bracknell Forest Council (BFC) back around £2,700 each year.

Bracknell News:

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This comes as the authority rubber-stamped a council tax increase of almost four per cent to support its day-to-day services earlier this week.

Harry Fone, from the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Councillors should not be filling their bellies from coffers filled with council tax rises.

“Councillors need to be conscious that every penny they spend is paid for by the public.

Bracknell News:

“The council should keep the refreshment budget as low as possible to save costs.”

The total spent over five years on refreshments is equivalent to:

But bourbons, custard creams and digestives may be in short supply at the authority in the coming years as it looks to cut down on refreshments expenses.

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In November 2019, the News reported a spending freeze implemented as part of Chief Executive’s Timothy Wheadon efforts to claw back a projected deficit of £500,000 by March 2020.

Speaking at a meeting in January where BFC’s budget for the coming year was discussed, finance boss Cllr Peter Heydon said the authority needed to be “careful about what we spend.”

He added: “It might be relatively small beer, but it’s funny when you add it up over the year how significant it can be.

Bracknell News:

“Going straight to one of the few member perks, there’s been a paucity of biscuits of late.

“That might seem trivial. Things that may seem trivial but aren’t, it’s about looking and making sure we are justifying our costs.”

Figures for the current financial year (2019/2020) show — as of January 31 2020 — BFC has spent £1,057.25 on refreshments.

Bracknell News:

If this rate of spending applied to the rest of the financial year, BFC will have spent £1,268.70 in total, down from £2,383.57 in 2018/2019.

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Kevin Gibbs, Executive Director for Delivery, said: “We have significantly reduced expenditure on refreshments at meetings and conferences, and no longer provide them as a matter of course.

“This is reflected in our figures for 2019/20, where overall spend has halved.

“In some circumstances, where members are expected to attend out of hours meetings and all-day conferences without a break, like many organisations, it’s not unusual for light refreshments to be provided.

“These figures also include refreshments for the Mayor’s Civic Service, which is attended by a number of external guests.”