Councils across South Yorkshire have spent more than £2.5 million on providing catering and hospitality in the last five years, The Star can reveal today.
Figures obtained through our Your Right To Know campaign show Sheffield Council clocked up the highest individual bill, at £1.297 million, on refreshments for meetings and events.
But Rotherham Council spent almost a quarter of its £180,125 bill on drinks and food for councillors alone – including hot drinks and cakes provided at the annual council meeting.
It was the only authority to say it provided food for elected councillors, rather than staff or events with the public, at a total cost of £2,291. And Barnsley Council spent the most on alcohol, spending £12,689 for events such as mayoral functions, exhibition launches and the annual council meeting where a new mayor was inaugurated. Councils say they have already reduced spending on catering or that it is under review. Sheffield Council said the figures related to hosting public meetings, partnership and consultation events which were ‘essential to ensure we involve the people of Sheffield in decision making processes’.
A spokesman added: “We have reduced catering costs by around 75 per cent in the past five years and will continue to scrutinise the figures to see where further savings can be made.”
Barnsley Council was the second highest spender, with a five-year bill of £985,199.
On its alcohol bill, a spokesman said ‘alcohol is provided to special events only’. In the past year it spent £1,637 on alcohol over six occasions.
Both Sheffield and Barnsley councils did not have completed figures for the 2014-15 year - so the totals for the five years are likely to be higher.
At Rotherham, the vast majority of its catering spend was for councillors at £40,481, mayoral functions such as school tours of the town hall at £39,927, and separate civic events like celebrations to mark Rotherham United’s promotions, costing £26,662.
Details of staff meetings in Riverside House showed that £143 was spent on fresh orange juice.
A council spokesman said: “Rotherham Council is reviewing a range of issues to ensure that it is as effective and efficient as possible, visibly demonstrating value for money.
“Catering arrangements and related costs are one of many areas which are under scrutiny and there will be a strong focus on this during our forthcoming budget process.”
Doncaster Council appeared to spend the least overall – £89,894 – but did not provide details of spending on ‘external catering’.
Dave Wilkinson, assistant director of trading services and assets, said: “In the last five years, we have reduced the cost of providing food for working lunches by 45 per cent while spending on events catering has fallen by 60 per cent.
“These are occasions like Armed Forces Day or Armistice Day when tea, coffee and biscuits are provided to the volunteers who help out.”
The total amount spent across the four councils was more than £2,552,540.