No more free lunches as city's honesty box to stay on menu

AN "honesty" box to allow councillors to pay for their lunch is set to become a permanent fixture at the City Chambers.

The trial scheme was introduced in September after free meals in the members' lounge were axed as part of cost-cutting measures.

Politicians are now trusted to put 1.50 into the box for sandwiches and 1 for a bowl of soup served with a crusty roll. Council chiefs said the money raised by the venture had been "satisfactory", but declined to reveal actual figures.

The free lunches for councillors were originally scrapped in a bid to save 45,000 a year.

After the honesty box was launched, it is understood that staff regularly found it to be left short at the end of the day.

Officials soon swapped the box for a version that cannot be opened and features a slot for coins to be dropped in, but the council also declined to reveal whether the correct amount of cash was now being paid.

One City Chambers source said it was thought the amount of money raised was still sometimes lower than it should be.

Labour councillor Lesley Hinds today said the set-up was creating "more bureaucracy" for City Chambers staff.

"The administration has got to make up its mind – they either subsidise meals or they don't," she said.

"It takes time for staff to add the money up at the end of the day, and then bank it.

"Personally, I don't know why we have the set-up. It's not as if we don't have plenty of other places to go for sandwiches."

For years, sandwiches and hot soup were laid on for councillors taking lunchbreaks between meetings. But, faced with a huge financial black hole, councillors decided in June that the food was an unnecessary expense and unfair on city taxpayers.

However, members' catering was reintroduced just two months later on the basis that there would be no cost to the taxpayer.

Getting rid of the food had raised some concerns that councillors' eating expenses would subsequently rise.

Under Scottish Government rules, they are entitled to claim 8 a day for breakfast, 12 for lunch and 25 for dinner whenever they eat away from the City Chambers or other council premises. A city council spokesman said: "The level of income received over the trial period has been satisfactory.

"The performance of the system will continue to be monitored to ensure that the costs of lunches are covered."

Back to the top of the page