“I applaud the ingenuity of the opposite party to continue to find ways to prevent vegan meals being served at council meetings.”
A motion from the Conservatives’ group leader Eddie Reeves to scrap vegan lunches at their monthly meetings and civic events has failed with 37 votes against and only 17 votes for.
It came after the Oxfordshire County Council adopted a policy earlier this year to serve only plant-based meals at meetings to tackle climate change.
The decision at the time received pushback from the farmer community and conservative councillors.
TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson, who runs a farm in Chadlington called the move “utter madness”.
Conservative councillor David Bartholomew branded it a “bullying diktat”. He said it sent a “worrying message to farmers everywhere.”
“I respect vegans and their beliefs. I quite like some vegan food, but I abhor being commanded to eat it,” Bartholomew explained.
“Why does this administration think it has the right to dictate the diet of its councillors? Where will this authoritarian approach end? Will we soon be told how to dress?”
All catering to be scrapped
Mounting further pressure on the council, Reeves called for all catering to be scrapped at events unless it is considered “essential”. He added the authority should “reprioritise” its spending and redirect the money spent on council meals to good causes.
“We don’t need to be fed. We receive £1,000 a month gross to do our jobs here – we do not need to be fed whether a vegan, carnivore, alternative or something in the middle,” he said at the meeting.
“We should reprioritise catering unless it’s strictly essential say for a civic event particularly given that time and time again we’ve heard about the cost-of-living crisis which is deeply affecting residents across this county.
“Let’s reprioritise the small amount of money we congregate at present to feed ourselves and feed more needy people.”
However, his motion was crushed at the Lib Dem, Labour and Green-controlled council.
The council’s leader Liz Leffman said catering amounted to only £6,000 per year compared to the ‘£2m brought in by the council’ to support residents.
Moreover, the £6,000 benefits local businesses as the catering contract is with a Kidlington business which sources food from Woodstock.
“Are you seriously suggesting that we should, for the sake of appearances, take away a contract from a small business in our area and somehow donate to support residents of this county when we are doing a great deal ourselves?” Leffman asked Reeves.
“Businesses need to survive in this county, as well as individuals.”
Labour councillor Glynis Phillips added: “I applaud the ingenuity of the opposite party to continue to find ways to prevent vegan meals being served at council meetings.
“Your group meetings must be a hive of creativity as you try and find different ways to scupper this initiative.”
Phillips further added: “I’m interested in knowing when catering is considered essential. I would argue that given the time that members are in these council meetings plus the pre meetings and considerable travelling time that catering is considered essential.
“I also think that as 63 councillors who present all parts of Oxfordshire would miss the opportunity to sit down together and get to know each other better and discuss the problems that face our residents.”
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