Cost of hospitality takes the biscuit

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There are bound to be eyebrows raised when people digest the figures on today’s front page.

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.

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South Yorkshire councils spend over £2.5m on catering - figures show

It is a lot of money by anyone’s estimations but just goes to show how much is spent in local authorities on a day-to-day basis.

Look, we’re not begrudging our councils the odd cup of tea here or the odd biscuit there to get through another long meeting.

However, it is important we hold our politicians to account, particularly at a time when austerity becomes the default excuse for services being cut. The botched gritting savings in Sheffield, for example.

Of course budgets are tight.

Further government cuts are inevitable following the result of last week’s general election so it is vital that every penny is accounted for.

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.

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 provide 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.

Doncaster Council appeared to spend the least overall – £89,894 – but did not provide details of spending on ‘external catering’ so the true figure is likely to be much higher.

Councils and public sector organisations will always be held to a high standard.

They’re funded by taxpayers money, which is paid to them whether we like it or not.

However, a strong, competent public sector is vital to the wider economy. It provides the backbone and infrastructure for business to boom. On the whole councillors and other public sector workers do a good job in a very challenging environment.

It is our job to report on how your money is spent and we will never shy away from doing that.