Monmouthshire council's Pimm’s bill causes opposition uproar

10:20am Friday 10th January 2014

A ROW has broken out among rival parties in Monmouthshire council after Labour claimed the authority spent around £67,000 on hospitality and £1,500 on Pimm's and canapés at one event alone.

Labour group leader Cllr Dimitri Batrouni accused Tories in the county of getting their priorities wrong, but Conservative deputy leader of the council Cllr Bob Greenland accused him of not looking into the facts.

The group has obtained figures showing the authority spent around £43,000 on items classed as hospitality so far in 2013/14 – but Cllr Batrouni says the up-to-date figure is £67,000.

Cllr Batrouni claimed that one event, the Chairman’s civic reception at Chepstow Racecourse, saw "unacceptable" spending of £1,000 on canapés and £500 on Pimm's.

The council opposition leader said the spending in 2013/14 would enrage Monmouthshire people and accused the Tories – the largest group in the ruling coalition – of getting their priorities wrong.

He added: “At a time when they are making cuts to services for special educational needs children, they are spending nearly £67,000 on hospitality. We would reverse this, drastically cutting the hospitality budget and spending it instead on Monmouthshire’s most vulnerable children.”

The group would like to see spending on hospitality capped at £10,000.

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 Jessica Crook, for Undy, said: “With the council facing such severe cuts that will effect so many of our residents, this is the first thing that should be reduced.”

However Cllr Greenland, deputy leader in the ruling Tory/Lib Dem coalition, hit back, saying much of what was in Cllr Batrouni’s list would not be defined by most as hospitality.

He says it includes room hire where the cost is recouped from external parties, and two payments to golf clubs paid for by the Welsh Government which were for the Flying Start initiative.

“Had Cllr Batrouni bothered to drill into the facts he would have seen the truth.” he said.

“It seems they have reverted to type and are more interested in trying to score political points. Instead they have scored an own goal,” he added.

A spokesman for Monmouthshire Council wouldn't confirm or deny the spending on the civic reception, but said refreshments were served.

He said there wasn't another venue big enough in the Chepstow area, and that the event had cross party attendance and attendance from non-councillors.

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