Too hard to swallow

A BID to slash the $90,000 spent each year on dinners for Bayswater councillors and staff has been dashed, with only two councillors supporting more frugal meals.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s vote, councillor Catherine Ehrhardt told the Voice the “the meals have always felt very extravagant for me”.

The three course meals, which cost $63 per head, feature two meat and a vegetarian option, multiple salad bowls, dessert, a cheese platter and fruit.

The meals chew through most of the council’s $139,000 catering budget.

Cr Ehrhardt says she’s happy to scrap the catering entirely but put up a compromise of light refreshments or an in-house cook rather than a full catering team. “I spoke to the staff; not one of them said they wanted to keep it. They would rather grab a quick bite at their desk and finish some work than come and sit down for an awkward dinner,” Cr Ehrhardt said.

“I feel guilty for partaking, especially when I come out of the council dining room and there’s ratepayers saying ‘it smells lovely, what are you guys having tonight’.

“It’s an archaic holdover from when [being a councillor] was a voluntary position,” she says.

Only Cr Ehrhardt and Stephanie Coates supported scaling back the food to light refreshments. Cr Ehrhardt’s second idea to save money by investigating an in-house cook narrowly passed thanks to mayor Barry McKenna’s casting vote.

Staff will now figure out the costs and feasibility of that option before reporting back to council next year.

by DAVID BELL

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