Monmouthshire councillor sparks row over cap to hospitality budget
3:02pm Saturday 18th January 2014 in Gwent news
A ROW over visits to Waitrose broke out between Monmouthshire councillors during a debate on capping costs this week, after claims by the opposition that the authority spent £67,000 on hospitality.
Cllr Dimitri Batrouni, leader of the Labour group, proposed a motion to cap hospitality spending at £10,000 at a Monmouthshire council meeting on January 16, but the Conservative group amended it to the lower figure of £8,500.
Setting up a cap was put forward after Labour obtained figures showing the authority spent £1,000 on canapés and £500 on Pimm's at the chairman’s civic reception at Chepstow Racecourse.
Cllr Batrouni, member for St Christopher's, said: "Capping hospitality sends a clear message to the public. Help us to clear up what is hospitality and what is not. Welsh gifts is another category which I found out is our annual subscription to the press. We need to sort out the definition of hospitality."
The Labour leader came under fire from cabinet member Cllr Bob Greenland, responsible for leisure services, for leaking the information to the press and demanded he apologised for misleading the public about the figures.
He said: "I think the public deserves an apology. The information was wrong and it is disrespecting members of this council.
"Room hire was £36,000 which is recuperated from third parties, £11,000 on hospitality which we have had an amount recovered from third parties and civic events amounted to £8,600. We would not be spending £67,000 on hospitality as we have a budget of £16,900."
Cllr Phil Hobson said: "There are not bottles of wine flowing in Monmouth."
The lower cap of £8,500 was approved by councillors after row between rival parties on whether they enjoyed canapes or shopped at Waitrose.
Cllr Kevin Williams, Labour member for Llanwenarth Ultra ward, said: "I don't like what the opposition are referring to, we are not common - I like beer and sandwiches. This hospitality list is a pile of errors."
Thornwell Cllr Armand Watts, also Labour, said: "I even shop in Waitrose."
A list supplied by Cllr Batrouni showed around £43,000 of spending classified as hospitality, with at least £6,500 spent on hotels and £325 spent at Alice Springs Golf Club.
Cllr Peter Fox, council leader, said: "Lots of other LEA members are ferried in Jaguars. We are modest. This has started something running now. It is no good for building the confidence with the public of what we are about."
Cllr Batrouni refused to apologise for leaking the hospitality list.
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