Councillor 'personally offended' by colleagues eating 'picnics' during meetings

·3-min read
BCP Council's headquarters at Bournemouth Town Hall <i>(Image: Newsquest)</i>
BCP Council's headquarters at Bournemouth Town Hall (Image: Newsquest)

A COUNCILLOR has hit out at colleagues for having “picnics” during meetings in the Bournemouth Town Hall chamber.

East Cliff and Springbourne ward councillor Anne Filer said she found the conduct of some elected members “personally offensive”.

The Conservative elected member asked BCP Council’s audit and governance committee if it could be stressed that food should only be consumed in a “discreet” fashion during meetings.

“Some members here tonight and some members of the council will find this completely irrelevant,” Cllr Filer said.

“Where I sit we have a series of picnics which are taking place during council meetings and I am really not kidding.

“We have a bag and out comes all sorts of things and personally I find this offensive and particularly if it is being held in the council chamber in the Civic Centre in Bournemouth where that room is used for other things – weddings, celebrations, funerals, all sorts of things.

Bournemouth Echo: Cllr Anne Filer
Bournemouth Echo: Cllr Anne Filer

Cllr Anne Filer (Image: BCP Council)

“We should be discouraging people from having more than the most discreet (food).

“Some people do need to have some food if they have got medical conditions or it’s late but to actually sit and eat sandwiches, followed by crisps, followed by a smelly piece of food I find personally offensive and I’d like to see that changed.”

Fellow Conservative Cllr Laurence Fear, who chairs a the constitution review working group, said discussions had been had on the issue.

He said “discreet” was deemed to be the most appropriate phrasing.

“We have that flexibility, for example at full council where the chair of the meeting, obviously people need to take food with medication or need to step out for five minutes, that is under the discretion,” Cllr Fear said.

Bournemouth Echo: Cllr Laurence Fear
Bournemouth Echo: Cllr Laurence Fear

Cllr Laurence Fear (Image: BCP Council)

“Having a discreet banana at full council, again is under the discretion. I completely agree that picnics are not appropriate in that setting so having that wording there gives that flexibility if someone needs that sugar hit of a banana but not opening up the buffet.

“Again it will be for the chair to be aware of that and then hopefully implement what we are recommending here.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Mike Cox, who is also on the working group, said the matter was discussed at length. He said the enforcement of discreet should be implemented by the chair more than it has been previously.

Cllr Filer said: “Clearly the committee has got a lot of common sense and a few nuts, or a sweet, or a banana, but perhaps it should be put out as a suggestion to members that a sandwich containing onions is not quite the thing for the other people who have to sit around it.

“I am really not joking. It really does happen and we all arrive at those meetings for a 7pm meeting and most of us have had a chance to eat in the 10 minutes prior to that meeting if it is going to be something bigger than something discreet but my idea of discreet might not be the same as the person sitting next to me.”

Audit and governance committee chair Cllr John Beesley (Conservative) said Cllr Filer’s observations were well made.

“It seems to me that if we agree these changes this evening, certainly the spirit is there,” Cllr Beesley said.

“It would also seem to me that the ideal place for this to be discussed once it has been recommended and agreed by A and G (audit and governance) and, hopefully, by council, will be through the group leaders’ meetings.

“That’s how I would I see it progressing because then it can be expanded on as necessary.”