It takes the biscuit! Government department spends extra 10,000 on snacks (and guess what, it's headed by Eric Pickles)
He promised to ban free food and drink at meetings shorter than four hoursLabour's Diane Abbott reveals expenditure and says biscuit bill must be cut



14:45 GMT, 30 December 2012

Eric Pickles

One of Mr Pickles' 50 cost-cutting tips to councils was 'stop providing free food and drink at meetings'

Cost-cutting minister Eric Pickles' biscuit bill is up 10,000 on last year as his department spent 42,225 of taxpayers money in just seven months.

It comes as Mr Pickles said he had banned refreshments from being served at departmental meetings unless they go on for more than four hours.

The Communities and Local Government office's biscuit budget was uncovered by Labour minister Diane Abbot, who said: 'Nobody begrudges Eric the odd digestive but he needs to cut his biscuit bill.

'Thanks to his policies councils all over the country are having to cut vital facilities like libraries.'

Mr Pickles' department was recently championed by Chancellor George Osborne as a fine example of cost-cutting after the minister advised councils on 50 ways to save cash.

Tip number 39 of his cost-cutting tips was: 'Stop providing free food and drink at meetings.'

Mr Pickles added that his department had cut spending on refreshments from 456,142 under Labour in 2009-10 to 32,053 in 2011-12.

He said: 'Guidance to staff now states that refreshments may only be ordered for meetings with external attendees of longer than four hours.

'Staff should avoid arranging meetings over lunchtime where possible and attendees should normally be asked to bring their own refreshments where practical.

'Expensive meals on Government Procurement Cards have also been stopped.'

The report in today's Sun caused a flurry of angry tweets on Twitter.


New government guidance is that free food and drink should not be served at meetings shorter than four hours long

Eric Pickles' money saving tips

Eric Pickles' top fifty tips on how councils can save money included, at number 39: 'Stop providing free food and drink for meetings'

Harlow Labour councillor Ian Beckett referred to Mr Pickles as 'Custar Creaming it' in light of his department's expenditure.

But Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis was quick to Mr Pickles' defence, pointing out that the total snacks bill had been dramatically reduced under Conservatives took over from Labour.

He called Diane Abbott a 'hypocrite' and Labour ministers in general as 'behaving like champagne socialists' during the 13 years they were in power.

'They wined and dined at lavish restaurants around the world, arrogantly leaving the taxpayer to foot the bill.

Ian Beckett Twitter grab

Labour Party minister Diane Abbott

Labour Party minister Diane Abbott uncovered the rise in Mr Pickles' department's biscuit budget

'We have stopped this outrageous
abuse of taxpayers' cash and drastically cut back the eye-watering
amounts Labour were shelling out of refreshments.'

Last month it was revealed that the total Coalition refreshments bill across several Whitehall departments
tops 3million, according to statistics unearthed in a series of
Parliamentary Questions.

The Department of Health, responsible for cutting 28,500 NHS jobs was said to have spent 1,352,556.33 on refreshments since the Coaltion's election in May 2010.

Mr Pickles was recently banned from one of the pubs in his home town after he was reported as saying that he hated going back to his native Yorkshire.

Mr Pickles, whose photograph has been pinned to the pub's dartboard, made the comments on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs..

Mr Pickles showed little disappointment at the ban, however, and said the last time he had a drink in the Great Northern in Keighley, West Yorkshire, was more than 40 years ago.

The 50 cost-cutting tips Mr Pickles offers to local councils.