Free lunches off the menu at Council

Aberdeenshire councillors will soon have their free lunches taken off the menu.

Elected members currently enjoy a meal when attending at the authority’s Woodhill House headquarters in Aberdeen.

But the policy and resources committee last week agreed to end the perk – which costs around £12,000 a year – after recommendations from finance bosses.

In a report to the committee, head of finance Alan Wood said: “Custom and practice has for many years allowed councillors to receive a meal when attending meetings in Woodhill House.

“In recent times lunches have become almost standard practice for some area committees where lunches have been provided to councillors.”

Committee members were asked to agree that councillors should pay for their meals from April 1, other than in “exceptional” circumstances.

SNP councillor Joanna Strathdee asked if the new ruling would apply to area committees and it was suggested that lunch at these meetings should be provided “if appropriate”, and viewed as a “working lunch”.

Guests will also be expected to pay under the new approach. At the moment, receipt of the meal is recorded and deducted from individual councillors’ monthly remuneration in what Mr Wood described as an “administratively cumbersome” process.

SNP councillor for Aboyne, Deeside and Upper Donside Geva Blackett opposed the move.

She voiced concerns on how to attract more people to become councillors while benefits were being stripped back.

She said: “How can we convince people to do this vital job while getting rid of things like this?

“My concern for the future is how to attract young people into a job that is very poorly paid, has a heavy workload and is often very thankless. It’s alright for people of my generation but the key is attracting young people into the role.