Booze ban, food spending and fewer elections - how Hartlepool councillors are looking at saving cash

A booze ban until Christmas and cash spent on food, transport and elections are all being considered as council chiefs look to save cash in Hartlepool

Monday, 8th July 2019, 16:30 pm
Hartlepool Civic Centre

Hartlepool Borough Council’s spending on a number of areas is being looked at by councillors as part of a review of “civic arrangements” which will also consider reducing elections to once every four years and examine the role of the mayor.

The council’s constitution committee is undertaking the review after a request from councillors at a full council meeting in December 2018.

A report, to go before the committee on July 15, provides information on current arrangements for councillors to review and see if they want to suggest any changes.

This includes spending for civic events, with the budget for food and beverages currently £4,074 a year.

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It adds in the last two years spending has been in-line with the budget, with an average spend of approximately £3,600.

Alcohol ban

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.

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.

Alcohol is currently purchased for civic events and offered to ‘official guests, visiting dignitaries as well as elected members’ the report states.

The report from Hayley Martin, chief solicitor at the council, makes several suggestions councillors may wish to take in regards to savings on food and drink.

It said: “Actual expenditure on food and beverages in the last two years has been on budget with the average spend of approximately £3600. Members may wish to consider reducing the budget by 5% to reduce expenditure.

“Members may wish to consider limiting the offer of alcohol to particular events for example annual council, Christmas carol service or other one-off special events.”

The role of the mayor

Councillors will also look at the role of ceremonial mayor who, alongside attending previously listed events, represents the council at events such as royal visits, official openings, presentation of awards, school visits and other events.

There is a budget of £5,651 for the current financial year to support the mayor attending such events.

The report notes there is ‘heritage and history held to the role’ and is a position ‘for many held in high esteem’.

Saving cash on elections

Councillors will also look at a change in the election cycle as part of the review, with the council currently holding elections over a four year period, with one third of councillors elected each year with one fallow year.

Council bosses noted if elections moved to an ‘all out’ election every four years it is estimated £40,000 a year would be saved against the existing budget, with further savings if elections combine with Tees Valley or national elections.

Councillors will also look at civic transport, and currently the civic vehicle is a 2007 Skoda Octavia, which bosses state costs approximately £2,500 a year to run.

Current arrangements also include the employment of a civic driver who undertakes the role of mace bearer at council meetings and is responsible for the security of civic chains during official engagements.

The final item councillors will review is the budget for member conferences and development, with attendance at the events needing approval by the council leader and chief executive ahead of time.

The budget for member conferences and development is £13,908, and council bosses state expenditure for the last two years is ‘broadly in line’ with the budget.

Councillors are to review the different areas at the Constitution Committee meeting at the Civic Centre on July 15 at 2pm.