Shadbolt bemused by 'prince of gluttony' tag

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2013
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SHAUN YEO/Fairfax NZ
Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt.

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Poll: Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt has been called a lot of names, but the prince of gluttony is a new one, he says.

At the city council's finance and policy committee meeting this week, he said he had recently been surprised to be greeted by a radio journalist asking if he was the prince of gluttony.

But he was even more surprised to hear the meals for city councillors at the conclusion of council and committee meetings had been cut.

The Invercargill City Council spent $27,700 in the past three years catering for councillors after meetings, including Indian and Chinese takeaways.

But city council chief executive Richard King put a stop to that last month, swapping the council buffets for sandwiches.

The email, sent by council communications manager Eirwen Harris, said: "Mr King has instructed that from now on a plate of sandwiches will be provided after committee and council meetings - as part of host responsibility."

However, councillors would not miss out on dinner all the time.

"He has instructed that the provision of dinner should only be done when it can be reasonably estimated in advance that a council meeting, or committee meeting is likely to go on well after 6pm."

The move by the council was an effort to stop "a culture of extravagance and excess", the email sent last month to council directors and committee chairs says.

Mr Shadbolt, though, does not agree. "I think we should have at least discussed it and I would have argued strongly for keeping it."

He believed meals were an important way of bringing councillors together. "I think it does help unify a council."

The thought of one councillor munching on a muesli bar in the corridor and another councillor eating their sushi in the corner was ridiculous, he said. "It would be like bringing your own wine to church."

Mr Shadbolt said he would have liked to have the matter discussed around the council table before it was decided and rolled out.

"I would have liked to be able to argue that before it was announced in the press."

Ms Harris said she had "simply followed instructions" when sending out the email. "I discussed it with the chief executive."

Ms Harris said the pair did not consult councillors before sending out the email. "We thought it would be a housekeeping matter."

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Ms Harris said the email she sent did go to Mr Shadbolt and he did not reply raising his concerns.

"I would like to stress that staff do whatever the mayor and councillors want."

Council chef executive Richard King said Mr Shadbolt would not have to worry about missing out completely, repeating that light meals would be served when meetings went beyond 6pm.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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