Every six months Tory-controlled Surrey Heath Borough Council stage an expensive luxury free breakfast for business people. I don’t know exactly how much this costs. The reason for that is that SHBC don’t know how much it costs either. Last year I used the Freedom of Information Act to find out how much of our, taxpayers’, money is spent on feeding the well-fed. I discovered that the food alone cost £30 per head.
At the same time, I requested the names of all the delegates. Just over 100 people attended. About a quarter of them were Tory councillors, there were some council officers and a large number of Tory donors. I wrote about it here.
It is more difficult for me to find out who attends these meetings now because SHBC are refusing to reveal all the names because it might lead to them being distressed. I can totally understand that: business people must be ashamed to be seen scoffing £30 worth of taxpayers’ food while children in poor families within this borough are going hungry in the morning. If it had been revealed that I was so greedy and heartless I would be distressed too. At least these wealthy diners have a sense of shame.
The next Business Breakfast will be the first one since the two latest attacks on low income families. Surrey Heath BC imposed the harshest, most extreme, cuts to Council Tax benefit in April. Also, the Tory-LibDem Coalition imposed the Bedroom Tax which hits poor families and disabled people financially.
Among the Tory supporters at the next Business Breakfast will be ‘Zero Tolerance’ unofficial Tory Police and Crime Commissioner Kevin Hurley. Mr Hurley is a wealthy businessman, owning a private security company, so he could afford to pay for the cost of the food he consumes.
The large number of Tory councillors who attend these events could also afford to pay their way. Nearly all of the local Tory councillors are self-employed small business people. There is nothing wrong with being self-employed, of course, but to have no (or almost no) employees among their number shows how they have become so out of touch. Their priority is to keep their wealthy friends well nourished.
SHBC and Tory Windlesham Parish Council stage many publicly-funded events to reward Tory donors and supporters but this one has a special resonance. Michael Gove, Surrey Heath’s MP and Education Secretary, is cutting healthy school meals for children from poor families. One of his biggest donors is a major shareholder in Dominos Pizza. Tory Surrey County Council also send councillors on luxury overnight stays in Farnham Castle where they eat and drink very well at our expense.
Before a previous Business Breakfast I asked SHBC if I could collect the leftovers to take to a foodbank or homeless shelter. They refused.
This massively expensive Tory knees-up should be cancelled and the money added to the inadequate hardship fund for those families suffering most under SHBC’s extremist regime. The huge amount of officers’ time spent organising this event should be used in the interests of the electorate as a whole eg assessing local needs and enforcing planning decisions.
If it is too late to cancel October’s event, I call on SHBC to charge each attendee £30. If there is any worth in attending beyond stuffing one’s face, business people will be happy to pay. This money should then be added to the hardship fund.
One of the treasurers of the Church of England said on Radio 4, “No business is 100% good” to justify investing money from collection plates in Wonga. Businesses need to prove continuously that they are not parasites, exploiting workers and customers for everything they can take. If attendees of the Business Breakfast want to prove that they should be given the option.
If you decide to attend the SHBC Business Breakfast in October, remember when you are tucking into your breakfast that it has been taken from the mouths of children in the poorest families in our community. I hope that thought ruins your appetite.