Lisburn Castlereagh councillors’ in rant over sandwich provision at council meetings

Lisburn councillors went on a  rant yesterday over the recommended time frame that food would be provided again to members at council and committee meetings.

Councillors across the chamber voiced their widespread grievances with the plan over a 15-minute period

All catering for the local authority has been suspended since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

In February, members of the Corporate Services committee agreed that all food provision would remain suspended until at least September 2021, excluding the planning committee.

Members of the planning committee currently get a scone in the morning before a traybake in the afternoon and due to Covid regulations, the food is currently individually wrapped.

DUP councillor John Laverty, who is Chairman of the committee, said: “I was wondering if [the council] could consider some way of recognising that there’s some people who do need a sandwich."

The amount of food provided also correlates with the number of people on the committee.

Council officers recommended on Wednesday to members that the suspension of catering remain the same with the intention of reviewing the situation at “an appropriate point in the future.”

It is also understood that an already established working group within the council are in the process of awarding a new catering contract to meet the councils needs.

However, councillors across the chamber voiced their widespread grievances with the plan over a 15-minute period, saying that some members of the council come to meetings ‘straight from work without having eaten’.

Meanwhile, DUP alderman Paul Porter said ‘providing sandwiches that members would actually eat’ may help to curb the amount of waste recorded.

DUP councillor John Laverty, who is Chairman of the committee, said: “I’m well aware that there are a number people coming to committee meetings here from work and probably haven’t eaten and I was wondering if [the council] could consider some way of recognising that there’s some people who do need a sandwich.

“I am well aware that there was sandwich provision previously [but] there was a substantial degree of waste, so can we get a workaround on that situation so that people who can’t get something to eat [before meetings] can get a sandwich when they come here if they indicate that.”

Responding to Cllr Laverty, Director of Finance and Corporate Services, Cara McCrory said that food waste had proved problematic in the past.

She added: “If that is what this committee wants, which is the reintroduction of sandwiches in advance of committee meetings, we will do that.

“We have tried that before and what we have seen is that when we’ve asked members to indicate if they would like a sandwich, we have provided the sandwich and there has been 70% wastage.

“That means for every three sandwiches, two aren’t just eaten [but] if members wish to have that again we can and will accommodate that from September. I would just ask members just to be respectful. We would need to know in advance again and we would ask that the sandwiches be eaten.”

Meanwhile, DUP alderman Paul Porter said ‘providing sandwiches that members would actually eat’ may help to curb the amount of waste recorded.

“There’s some members here who travel and they don’t have the luxury to go home,” said alderman Porter.

“As [ former] chairman I did ask this before, could we not have a system where members were asked first of all if they wanted sandwiches and maybe [asking] what sandwiches they want may actually help them eat it?

“Anybody who knows me, knows that it’s just ham and butter and that’s me sorted. Maybe the best thing to do is to actually consult with members to see who actually wants a sandwich before a meeting and you might find that in itself deals with the issue.”

Alliance councillor Sharon Lowry urged members to ‘move on’, adding that it was ‘shocking’ that so much time had been spent on the item.

She said: “I am sure that the public don’t give a toss about members sandwiches or food. We are all adults and we can get our own food and surely we can time manage ourselves.”

The committee eventually agreed to propose the council’s recommendation.