Booze ban bid thrown out as Hartlepool councillors defend alcohol budget - claiming public 'misconceptions' are 'frustrating'
A bid to ban booze at Hartlepool Borough Council has been thrown out after councillors claimed there were ‘misconceptions’ about the practice.
A review of the authority’s budget for food and beverages, including alcohol, was launched as part of a look at civic spending following request from councillors at the Full Council meeting in December last year.
The budget for food and beverages currently is £4,074 a year and council officers said in the last two years spending has been in-line with the budget, with an average spend of approximately £3,600.
Following calls for a ban on alcohol, council bosses revealed in 2017/18 £526.60 was spent on alcohol for civic events, which dropped to £481.79 for 2018/19.
Councillors said residents have an incorrect perception of the food and alcohol available to the council, which is in fact limited, they claimed.
They said it is only offered at occasional civic events which provide an opportunity for networking and charity fundraising.
Councillors therefore moved to retain the existing budget for food and beverages as it is.
Coun Shane Moore said: “It’s been a frustrating one, because the narrative for this one has been twisted slightly, it’s been portrayed that there seems to be a free bar in the civic centre that councillors can visit after council meetings, when that simply isn’t the case at all.
“No doubt we have been terrible in the past at explaining things to the public and it’s why we end up with the backlash we do, and it’s something we need to get better at.”
The civic events include armed forces day, the annual remembrance day service and associated events, workers’ memorial day, annual civic services and charity events held at the discretion of the ceremonial mayor.
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Coun Marjorie James said: “Alcohol is not freely available, it is for specific purposes at specific events, and then it is quite limited really.
“You’re talking about beer and larger, a glass of wine, that’s it from an alcohol point of view, it is not lavish and it is limited.”
Coun Brenda Harrison said: “There is a perception that is not the right perception.
“It’s more reigned in, I don’t think there is a great deal of money spent.”
Current ceremonial mayor Coun Brenda Loynes said civic events provide a great opportunity for networking, promoting the town and boosting charity donations.
She said: “When I’ve been to other places, the amount of food that has been put on, it’s like wow, we don’t put anything like that on here.
“It’s networking, I’ve spoken to hundreds of people already, there’s a lot of people who had never been to Hartlepool, never heard of Hartlepool, it’s not wasting money.
“If we’re expecting certain authorities to come and support our charities then we’ve got to go and support theirs.
“I’m so proud of our town, we’ve got to let people know what’s going on.”