Council defends hiring meeting rooms

COUNTY bosses have been accused of wasting around �12,000 of public money every year by hiring out a meeting room at one of Suffolk's top palatial homes.

COUNTY bosses have been accused of wasting around �12,000 of public money every year by hiring out a meeting room at one of Suffolk's top palatial homes.

Suffolk County Council has been criticised for hiring the room at Ickworth House just days after it was revealed NHS bosses hired out the same venue for a strategic health authority meeting of delegates from across the region.

Managers from the children and young people's services department meet at the lavish grade 1 listed Georgian mansion three times a year to discuss policy.

One council insider said the bookings were 'completely unjustifiable' when the newly renovated �20million West Suffolk House in Bury St Edmunds has a council chamber which is 'perfectly adequate' and free of charge.


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Around 100 managers and council officers attend these meetings, the next of which is due to take place on Thursday.

Our source said they were prompted to reveal the extent of the council's excesses after seeing the NHS get criticised for hiring the same room.

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'It is just outrageous. If anything the health service is more justified in having people coming to the meeting from all over the region. The council has people from Bury and Ipswich and there is a perfectly good council chamber at West Suffolk House, which they have spent a lot of money doing up.'

Based on the advertised rates of hiring out the West Wing the council have been shelling out around �40 per head for the hire of conference facilities, including tea and cakes. The total cost maybe slightly reduced after it was revealed the managers do not have lunch included.

But that figure does not include the money each council worker is entitled to claim in expenses travelling to and from Ickworth House.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: 'To make sure services to children and young people are delivered in the most effective way the county council meets with its partners, such as health and members of the voluntary sector three times a year.

'Wherever possible the county council will hold meetings in its own buildings. However, there are simply no rooms large enough at West Suffolk House to enable this group of around 100 officers and practitioners to come together and work on key issues such as child protection and education practises.

'The county council works hard to make the most of public money and has negotiated a very competitive rate for the hire of this venue.'

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