An exclusive by the Mirror has revealed that Tory-run North Yorkshire County Council treated councilors to a lunch costing over £1,600 just after voting to block a Labour motion to oppose cuts to free transport for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
The newspaper found out that the lunch had taken place in February after submitting a Freedom of Information request and discovered that £23 was spent on each of the 72 councillors who attended the meal at Northallerton’s County Hall, with a grand total of £1,632.50 being spent on the lavish affair.
These transportation cuts will save the council just £57,000 per year by 2021, and the vote’s unanimous passing means that parents of SEND pupils are now liable to fork out almost £500 every year to pay for home to school transport – £490 annually, or £245 for families on low incomes.
In May, Cllr Janet Sanderson, children’s services executive member, told the York Press: “Some people say these savings are insignificant. But after several years of austerity it’s very hard to make savings. We have already picked the low-hanging fruit and are now on the extended step ladders and it’s an uncomfortable place to be.
“We want to protect the provision, correct the overspend and give flexibility to parents.”
The Labour motion to block the cut had been tabled by Eric Broadbent, who told his fellow councillors: “We believe that the changes proposed to transport for children with SEND are fundamentally wrong.
“Whilst we understand that the Council need to make savings, we believe that this area provides a valuable service to those who are amongst the most vulnerable in society and it is the Council’s duty to exhaust all other areas before removing free transport for young people with SEND.
“It is therefore proposed that the implementation of the cut is removed and the funding of the saving gap met from Reserves until such time as more acceptable proposals are developed.”
Speaking to the Mirror, North Yorkshire County Council Leader Carl Les, said: “Our full council meets four times a year and that is the only time that councillors are provided with lunch.
“We have 72 councillors who represent divisions across England’s largest county attending these meetings along with aldermen and occasional guests, many of whom have to travel long distances – some up to two hours in either direction.
“However we know that members are not exempt from austerity measures and we are reviewing hospitality at the council.”Get your copy of UNITE Magazine