COUNTY councillors were urged to lay off the ‘lunchtime ritual’ after debates hit fever pitch this week – but an eminent Tory dismissed suggestions they had been fuelled by alcohol. 

Questions have been raised over the way debates were conducted at Oxfordshire County Council after members had retired for lunch. 

Some Conservative councillors no longer stay at County Hall since the decision to offer only vegan food, preferring to eat elsewhere. 

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The usual political point scoring was on display during Tuesday’s discussions but the leader of the opposition Councillor Eddie Reeves was asked by monitoring officer Anita Bradley to withdraw a comment targeted at Councillor Tim Bearder having called him “an incredibly small man”. 

In between Mr Reeves’s jibe and the monitoring officer’s intervention, and during discussion of an unrelated matter, Councillor Duncan Enright said: “May I urge members to encourage their more enthusiastic comrades and colleagues to take lunch easy because it has been a much nastier atmosphere this afternoon and I know that there are possible lunchtime ritual reasons for that. Please, let’s not go there.”

All of that had followed Councillor Kieron Mallon commenting on his pub lunch during discussion of whether councillors should be fed at meetings. 

“I feel energised, energised post my lunch because I had a full quota of protein, a very small portion of carbohydrates and I can assure you I had a good portion of my five fruits a day,” he said. 

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“I and I am sure others have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has ever taken out of me. Because we went around the corner, we had a full choice, I went round the corner to Wetherspoons where you can have a vegan, a vegetarian, a carnivore, and you can do it all for ten quid.”

When contacted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr Mallon said he had partaken in ‘one standard measure of wine with a set meal’.

“My colleagues and I have clearly made a stance that we do not think the public should pay for councillors’ lunches, if the lunch that is available is purely vegan I would be hypocritical to take lunch in county hall,” he said. 

“Therefore I and a few of my colleagues went to a local pub for a pub lunch which had included in the price a glass of wine.”

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Mr Mallon estimated that six or seven or his Tory colleagues had gone to the pub but said that not all had consumed alcohol.

He could not recall whether Mr Reeves attended, pointing out that councillors often have other matters to attend to during lunch breaks that are typically less than an hour long. 

Mr Reeves has since confirmed that he had lunch with colleagues and provided a receipt confirming that he had a soft drink.


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