DESPITE making £15 million cuts just two weeks ago, councillors are failing to meet their side of the bargain and have not been able to save any money on their own lunches.
Last year councillors agreed to slash £16,000 from their own budget, which covers their salaries, expenses and catering but it has now been revealed the saving has not been made.
All 74 councillors are offered hot meals at the Glenurquhart Road headquarters in Inverness, as well as rolls, tea, coffee and biscuits and at the corporate resources committee on Wednesday it was revealed that the £160,0000 budget is expected to be over spent by £4000.
But when questioned at the meeting, business manager Kate Lackie admitted that money had been clawed back through a vacancy in the catering department and without this vacancy the department would be almost £16,000 over budget - the entire amount they were supposed to save.
Deputy opposition leader Richard Laird, who is one of the councillors who chooses not to take up the food on offer, hit out at the cost.
He said: “A £16,000 hole because members are refusing to abide by a saving at our own hand is something we cannot deem acceptable in the current financial climate.”
Corporate resources chairman and budget leader Alister Mackinnon said he is “looking into it”.
The row over free meals has been ongoing for a number of years. In 2015, senior councillor Andrew Baxter, who was then an opposition backbencher, slammed councillors for continuing to accept the free meals, despite an earlier pledge to start paying for them.
His Freedom of Information request showed only 17 councillors were paying for lunch, although this did not show how many were bringing their own. He also called for the mileage expenses rate to be cut and other allowances to be frozen.